'Time Is Brain'

By Dr. Demetrius Lopes

When it comes to stroke, I teach my students that "time is brain." In other words, identifying a stroke and seeking medical attention as soon as possible are the most important steps we can take to improve patient outcomes, minimize long-term or irreversible damage, and maybe even save a life.

Recent advancements in stroke prevention and treatment have helped bring the disease from the fourth leading cause of death to the fifth in the United States, according to American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. However, stroke remains the cause of death for one in four Hispanic males and one in three Hispanic women.

This May, in recognition of National Stroke Awareness Month, we need to take it upon ourselves to help our families and our communities not only understand stroke and its potentially devastating consequences, but also learn the signs and symptoms so that we are all able to recognize when a stroke occurs.

An easy and effective way to remember stroke symptoms is to think of the acronym F.A.S.T., which stands for:

• Face Drooping -- Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?

• Arm Weakness -- Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

• Speech Difficulty -- Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

• Time to call 9-1-1 - If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately.

Today, doctors have more options than ever before to treat stroke. Over the past few months, we have seen several global studies on the benefits of new stroke treatments such as stent thrombectomy that can reduce disability and improve neurological outcomes. These developments in stroke treatment, hailed as the most significant in almost 20 years, are changing how we treat stroke and are providing new hope for full recovery for many patients.

However, much of the responsibility still hinges on all of us to take the time to learn both the signs of stroke and the actions to take to help our loved ones should they ever suffer a stroke. Understanding F.A.S.T. is the first critical step. For more information about stroke, visit StrokeAssociation.org.

Dr. Demetrius Lopes is a volunteer for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.