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Learn the signs and symptoms of a stroke

May 20, 2022 

When a stroke occurs, doctors often say “time is brain.” That’s because every minute the brain is without oxygen due to a stroke, two million brain cells die. This can often lead to brain damage, disability or death.

“Because treatment for stroke can begin in the ambulance, it's important to call 9-1-1 whenever you suspect a stroke,” says Dr. Scott Marrus, cardiologist with Prairie Cardiovascular.  “Immediate treatment and early intervention may minimize the long-term effects of stroke so don’t delay if you think someone if having a stroke.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dies of stroke every four minutes.

HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Breese encourages everyone to know the signs of a stroke by remembering the phrase/acronym BE FAST:
B – Balance difficulty: Sudden loss of balance or coordination, weakness or dizziness
E – Eye changes: Sudden onset of vision changes in one or both eyes
F – Face drooping: Sudden onset of facial drooping, usually on one side
A – Arm weakness: Sudden weakness or numbness in the arm, leg or face, usually on one side of the body
S – Speech difficulty: Sudden onset of trouble speaking or difficulty in understanding speech
T – Terrible headache: Sudden onset of severe headache with no known cause

The CDC says 80% of strokes are preventable by making lifestyle changes to reduce your risk:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Be physically active
  • Control cholesterol
  • Control blood pressure
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Reduce blood sugar

Dr. Marrus says those preventative actions are also important because they are within your control. Other things like age, family history, race and gender are not. 

If you think someone is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. For more information about signs, symptoms and how to respond, visit the American Stroke Association or the CDC stroke webpage.

Ready to Care For You
HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital Breese is designated as an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The IPDH makes these designations based on the hospital's ability to meet certain criteria aligned with nationally recognized, evidence-based standards, such as those from the American Heart/Stroke Association and Brain Attack Coalition. 

Since 2015, HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Breese has been a member of an emergency room tele-stroke network launched by Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) that helps save lives and reduce disabilities. The emergency service, described by doctors as having a “remote presence stroke specialist within minutes at the bedside,” provides instant access to neurology physicians.  The remote presence neurologist examines the patient using sophisticated videoconference equipment, speaks with clinicians and family members, reviews CT scans and other tests, and supports treatment decisions with documentation in the medical record.

Learn the signs and symptoms of a stroke