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1. What is Stroke Awareness Month?

May is National Stroke Awareness month. It’s an annual event to make people aware of the life-saving steps they can take to help a person experiencing a stroke, but you must BE FAST.

2. How common is stroke?

Each year approximately 795,000 people have a stroke. It claims the lives of 140,000 Americans. One out of every 20 deaths in America is caused by a stroke.

3. How can you tell if someone is having a stroke?

Learn the phrase BE FAST to remember stroke symptoms:

■ B = Balance — A sudden loss of balance or coordination.

■ E = Eyes — Blurred vision, double vision or sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.

■ F = Face — One side of the face sags or droops. There may be difficulty smiling.

■ A = Arms — Difficulty raising both arms. One arm may drift downward.

■ S = Speech — May be slurred or strange-sounding. The victim may struggle to repeat a single sentence.

■ T = Time — If you notice any of these signs, quickly call 9-1-1. Get the victim to the nearest hospital immediately. If you know the location of a nearby primary stroke center, that’s an ideal place to go.

4. What if you don’t live near a primary stroke center?

If you live in a community without around-the-clock access to stroke care providers, immediate care may be provided using technology called Telestroke.

5. What exactly is Telestroke?

Telestroke uses state-of-the-art telemedicine technology — special cameras and microphones — to facilitate communication between two locations. Telestroke allows stroke experts such as neurologists at one hospital to examine patients at another location miles away. The stroke expert works with local health care professionals to diagnose conditions and develop care plans.

For example, the stroke experts at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay collaborate with providers in Oshkosh, Manitowoc and Marinette to provide expert stroke care for stroke patients in Aurora hospitals in those communities.

6. How does Telestroke help stroke patients?

With Telestroke, patients can have a consultation with a qualified stroke specialist anytime, day or night. The Telestroke program can:

■ Connect patients with treatment recommendations from a team of experts

■ Lower healthcare costs

■ Provide 24/7/365 bedside access to stroke experts at more facilities

■ Allow treatments such as clot-busting drugs to be administered sooner

■ Reduce the risk for stroke-related disability

■ Reduce the need for patients to transfer to another facility

■ Allow ongoing professional treatment at the patient’s local hospital

7. Does the American Heart Association endorse Telestroke technology?

The American Heart Association recommends using telemedicine within stroke care protocols.

8. Who is at greatest risk for stroke?

Age matters. The likelihood of having a stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after age 55. Although stroke is more common among the elderly, many people under 65 also suffer from a stroke. Even babies and children can sometimes have a stroke.

9. How can a person reduce their stroke risk?

The American Stroke Association recommends regular checkups and treatment for various health conditions, if you have them. Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity or diabetes can all increase your stroke risk. Ask your doctor about your own risk for stroke and the steps you can take to minimize them.

10. If someone shows signs of stroke, what should I do first?

Getting the person professional medical care quickly is vital. Calling 9-1-1 usually results in faster treatment than driving someone to the emergency department. If any of the symptoms described above strike suddenly, please BE FAST. Don’t wait.

Jean Dill is a nurse practitioner with Aurora Bay Area Neurology at Aurora Bay Area Health Center, 4061 Old Peshtigo Road, Marinette. Her office can be reached at 715-732-8170.