A brain attack or stroke occurs when part of the brain is cut off from vital blood flow and oxygen due to a blood clot or a broken blood vessel. The results can be devastating. In fact, two million brain cells die every minute that your brain is deprived of blood and oxygen. Yet, the National Stroke Association says 1 in 3 Americans cannot name a single stroke symptom.

How stroke is treated

A drug called tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) can dissolve blood clots that cause most strokes, but the medication must be given within three to four hours of the onset of symptoms, or it may do more harm than good. Studies show that stroke victims who receive t-PA the soonest have the best chance of recovering with little or no disability after three months.

Studies have found that less than 30% of U.S. patients are treated within the recommended window of 60 minutes or less (for patients being treated with t-PA), but we are proud to be part of a network (HCA Healthcare) that responds to strokes 30% faster than the national standard, averaging a DTN time of 42 minutes.

We know time is of the essence when someone is experiencing a stroke; our patients receive timely, state-of-the-art stroke care driven by proven clinical protocols. However, it is important that everyone—friends, family, neighbors—understands just what a time-sensitive situation a stroke can be. Knowing how to identify stroke symptoms and act quickly means patients can receive treatment sooner for the best possible outcome.

Identify a stroke F.A.S.T.

Common symptoms of stroke include: a sudden, severe headache; sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

An easy way to remember how to spot signs of stroke is by using the F.A.S.T. method:

  • Face – Can the person smile without one side of the face drooping?
  • Arms – Can the person raise both arms without one arm drifting down?
  • Speech – Can a simple sentence be repeated without slurred speech?
  • Time – If you answer “no” to any of these questions, call 9-1-1 or go immediately to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Unfortunately, many people wait too long to seek help. A UCLA survey of records from 905 hospitals nationwide found only 28% of people who suffer a stroke sought help within an hour of experiencing symptoms. The majority of people arrived at the hospital more than three hours after symptoms began.

If you suspect a stroke, getting help within an hour of the symptoms' onset can prevent lasting damage and save lives. It is best not to drive yourself to a healthcare facility. Instead, dial 9-1-1 and seek medical attention immediately.