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Guest Letter

Guisou Mahmoud, M.D., FACEP

Providence Mission Hospital

Do you know the signs of a stroke?

Guest Letter Guisou Mahmoud

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Courtesy of Providence Mission Hospital

Guisou Mahmoud, M.D., FACEP

May is Stroke Awareness Month...do you know the signs of a stroke? Recognizing the symptoms is important for everyone, but it is especially critical if members of your family have risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. 

You can develop a stroke, also known as a brain attack, if your brain isn’t getting the blood it needs. Unfortunately, about 75% of people who experience a stroke annually have not had one before, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This means that many people may not be aware that they are in danger of having a stroke. 

There are two types of strokes. Almost 90% are known as ischemic strokes – or when a clot blocks blood flow to your brain. The second type is a hemorrhagic stroke – which means there is active bleeding in your brain. 

No matter the type of stroke, your loved one’s long-term health is directly dependent on swift and proper treatment. The good news is that by recognizing the signs early and acting quickly, you can save their life. 

Know the Symptoms 

Because a stroke is a serious medical condition, it is important that you and your family understand the symptoms. Common signs include numbness or weakness in the body, confusion or trouble understanding what people are saying, difficulty speaking, difficulty with balance or coordination, or dizziness. 

One way to remember the signs of a stroke is to think of the acronym, BE FAST:

B – Balance: Is your loved one having trouble balancing?

E – Eyes: Is their vision blurry?

F – Face: Ask them to smile. Does one side of their face droop?

A – Arms: Ask your family member to raise both arms. Watch to see if one arm drifts downward.

S – Speech: If you ask your loved one to repeat a simple phrase, is their speech slurred? Are they saying strange words that don’t make sense?

T – Time: If you witness any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away. Be fast because minutes matter!

Types of Treatment

When you receive care in a local emergency room, doctors will try to restore blood to the brain if you have a clot. Active bleeding in the brain may require emergency surgery. 

As your family member recovers, their medical team will conduct regular tests to better understand what caused the stroke and will work closely with you to develop a customized treatment plan for your loved one. 

Following acute care treatment, your clinical team will take a close look at your loved one’s lifestyle to provide recommendations that will help them during and post-recovery. For example, they may advise removing red meat from their diet, eating more balanced meals and daily exercise. Physical, occupational and speech therapy may also be recommended. 

It’s important to remember that treatment and recovery can look different for each person. Your care team will be there to help your loved one (and your extended family) navigate the recovery journey. 

And please remember, Providence Mission Hospital is here to help. They are designated by Orange County Emergency Medical Services as a certified stroke and neurology receiving center. Also, they are the only South Orange County hospital recognized by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association with a Get With The Guidelines®- Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award for their commitment to providing high-quality, evidence-based stroke care to the local community. 

Guisou Mahmoud, MD, FACEP is director of emergency medicine at Providence Mission Hospital Laguna Beach.