Stroke Awareness & Prevention

Maureen Moore, RN shares what a stroke is, risk factors, prevention and treatment options, and what the acronym FAST stands for.
Stroke Awareness & Prevention
Featured Speaker:
Maureen Moore, RN
Maureen Moore, RN is the stroke coordinator, Southwest General.

Scott Webb: Did you know that more than 795,000 people in the US have a stroke each year, and that stroke is the fifth leading cause of death? At Southwest General, a designated primary stroke care center. It is our pursuit to educate and inform community members about the importance of stroke prevention and awareness. Because as they say, getting fast life saving treatment is critical in preventing disability from stroke or even death. And joining me today is Maureen Moore. She's a Registered Nurse and Stroke Coordinator at Southwest General. This is Southwest General Health Talk. I'm Scott Webb and Maureen, thanks so much for joining me. Let's start with the basics today. What is a stroke? In other words, what happens to people who suffer a stroke?

Maureen Moore: A stroke occurs anytime blood flow is interrupted to or within an area of the brain, and that's what causes the actual symptoms. And there are two main types of stroke for people to know about.

Host: And the obvious follow up there is what are the two main types of stroke?

Maureen Moore: So, the most common type of stroke, and this is more than 80% of all strokes. I think it's closer to 85% is called an ischemic stroke. This is the type of stroke known as the clot type stroke. This is the stroke that occurs when blood clots or fatty deposits can block blood vessels, that supply blood to the brain. And, you know, these blockages can form in or near the brain and then the clot breaks off and travels to the brain. And so that is the most common type that you hear of, but there is another type of stroke and that is the hemorrhagic stroke. And this is the type of stroke that occurs when you have a blood vessel inside your brain, that ruptures it could be from an aneurysm. It could be from just having longstanding high blood pressure. There's a variety of reasons that hemorrhagic strokes occur, but those do cause the same symptoms. You know, you don't want to wait around trying to diagnose yourself.

Host: Yeah, definitely not. And as they say in the business, you know, time is brain. So getting to the hospital, calling 911 immediately is the best recourse for people who are having symptoms, but let's go through the symptoms. What are the critical symptoms that people should be on the lookout for?

Maureen Moore: I do want to stress before I go over all these symptoms is that these symptoms are all important to know, but they don't all necessarily occur with every stroke. You might have one symptom, you might have several of them, and you don't want to make those judgements. If you get these symptoms, you really just want to try to come in as quick as possible, preferably with 911, but the B is balance. So any wobbly balance, off balance feeling. E is eyes and eyes, you know, related to double vision, blurry vision, any loss of vision. And F is fast. First letter of fast. And that is their face is drooping. You ask them to smile. Their face is not symmetrical. A is arm. And we do usually ask people to close their eyes and put their arms out like Superman. And if you have weakness, you won't be able to have equal symmetry with your arms.

So, any kind of arm weakness S is standing for speech, and this means, you know, any kind of problems, speaking, unable to speak difficult speech, slurred speech. A lot of times people will say something like, I know what I want to say, but I can't get the words out. And then T the all important time that I keep alluding to, call 911, it's time to call, think about what was going on, because we always do need to know, like, when did this all start? Or when were you last known well, and that helps us determine treatment. So be fast. And that also gets that message out that we want to do this as quickly as possible if we identify symptoms.

Host: Yeah, absolutely. And got it BE FAST. And that that's so critical that people understand, as you say that they may not have all of the symptoms. They may only have one, but if that symptom is out of the ordinary and alarming and certainly sort of an emergent thing that wasn't happening a few minutes ago, that's a good time to call 911. Right. We don't want people self-diagnosing and assuming that something serious, like this is just going to pass obviously.

Maureen Moore: There are other things that mimic strokes. So instead of overthinking it, let us figure that out at the hospital, even if your symptoms go away, you really, like you said earlier time is brain. You know, don't drive yourself to the hospital, call 911. And remember that if you're with someone, don't take no for an answer and understand that most people don't really want to think so that's what's happening. So, they're probably not initially going to, they're going to minimize their symptoms. But if that is what's really happening, you really don't want to be wrong about this.

Host: Let's talk about the risk factors for stroke. I'm sure there are many, and maybe that's part of the thought process. You know, if you're having symptoms and you also know you're at higher risk for stroke, maybe that's why people can sort of connect those dots. So what are the risk factors for stroke?

Maureen Moore: I do want to point out they're very similar to what everyone has already learned. Probably most people are aware of some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease or heart attack. So many of these are the same. I want to stress that because for some reason we never got the message out as clearly about stroke, but we are working on that now. So I do want to tell you first off that, unfortunately there are some non-modifiable risk factors, another words, these are things you can't really change. You know, you can't change your age, the older we get the higher, your risk for having a stroke, you can't change your race. You can't change your heredity. As far as heredity goes, we definitely know that when there's a family history of stroke, of any type, you might be more apt to have that problem as well, especially when you know, that's in your recent family tree. Also, if you know, you've had TIAs or recent stroke before or hemorrhage before that is going to put you at a higher risk for going on and having another event.

So those things are non-modifiable. And then we do have a whole bunch of modifiable risk factors. I would tell you that the single most important risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure or hypertension. And we do want to stress to people to please continue taking your medications. Please try to control your blood pressure. You can imagine that it does put you in the risk for both types of stroke. Also smoking, most people, people do know that this is not good. It does put you at risk diabetes, really important to know your hemoglobin, A1C. And if you know, you have diabetes to keep it under control take your medications, follow up with your physician, any high cholesterol levels. Those obviously when I was talking about the blockages, you know, when we have high cholesterol, you're going to be more apt to form blockages in and around the brain. So we want to control that.

And there's medication for that. And obviously diet and exercise, just like most things. Another risk factor that's modifiable is keeping tabs on your carotid artery. We know that people that have blockage in the carotid artery are at risk for stroke. And additionally, you know, inactivity is a big risk factor for stroke. Sedentary lifestyle, not exercising, not moving around, as well as, alcohol use drug abuse, obesity, and then another really important one is atrial fibrillation. And this is an irregular heartbeat. And what I can tell you about that is that does put you at a 20% higher risk for ischemic stroke due to atrial fibrillation. So a lot of people don't know they have this, and this is another important reason to come into the hospital. Because until you're on a cardiac monitor, you might not, you might get symptoms after just a few minutes of AFib might be enough to cause a stroke. So it could be new for you, but as you can imagine, all these things can be worked on. So that's why I like to review the risk factors.

Host: Let's assume that somebody has had a stroke. What services or support groups to Southwest General offer in particular for stroke survivors?

Maureen Moore: So, we do have a stroke support group. It got off the ground at the beginning of 2019. And we were doing it in person right at the hospital. But, you know, as you can imagine with the pandemic we had to cancel several of those meetings in 2020. We did recently just have a call in type virtual meeting, if you will, just last week. And right now we're thinking that going into 2021, we would like to try to continue something. And I do believe there is a link on our website about this, it's pretty informal. We like to really give the group whatever they feel they need, as far as answering questions. We do try to provide guest speakers and things but it really is exactly what it's called support. Anybody's invited that is a stroke survivor and or their family member to join us. And besides that though, we do have a Gray Matters program.

And what that is, it's a screening type procedure with assessment for patients to think like, maybe they hear this talk and think, you know, I feel like I would just like to get checked out. So we do like a risk assessment. We do an EKG and all these things, and we have another one called Circulation Circuit, but all of these things should be found on our website. And also we have a phone line it's called 1-877-SWG- BEAT. And that is for appointments related to the risk screenings. And people find that very helpful. We have a lot of different ways. We also have health connection, which is a phone line that they can call at any time for references and questions. And that's 440-816-505. And someone on the other end of the line will help you with whatever it is you might be looking for, even a physician referral, things like that.

Host: You know, as we wrap up here today, Maureen, I think we've already answered this one, but let's go back over this again. If people are experiencing signs or symptoms of a stroke, what should they do?

Maureen Moore: I would recommend they call 911 immediately. And I do want to tell you, one of the reasons for this is that we do know that EMS or 911 services have a close relationship with us in the emergency department. So they actually give us a pre-arrival phone call, explain some of the symptoms. It may be that you arrive and your symptoms are resolved, but if you don't come into the hospital and get a workup, you're not going to know about some new risk factor you have. It could be something simple, but we just want to make sure that we aren't missing treating stroke because it is beatable and treatable, but you have to make that call. And I can't stress that enough, that that makes us fastest as fast as we could possibly be to offer you what's available

Host: Beatable and treatable, great messages today. Lots of great information, BE FAST, that great acronym Maureen, thank you so much for being on. Thanks for your expertise and your compassion, and you stay well.

Maureen Moore: Thank you, you as well.

Host: To learn more about stroke services at Southwest General, visit And if you found this podcast to be helpful and informative, please share it on your social channels and check out the full podcast library for topics of interest to you. This is Southwest General Health Talk. I'm Scott Webb, stay well.