GREEN BAY, Wisconsin—Stroke, a disease that affects arteries leading to and within the brain, is the fifth-leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States, according to the American Stroke Association. A stroke can happen to anyone at any age—men and women of all ages and races.

In 2020, HSHS St. Vincent and St. Mary’s hospitals in Green Bay; HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan; and HSHS St. Clare Memorial Hospital in Oconto Falls treated more than 600 people for stroke.

“Stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by either a clot or a break in a blood vessel, and so it is critical someone experiencing a stroke receive treatment as soon as possible,” said Dr. Alison Nohara, a Prevea Health neurointerventional radiologist at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital—a certified comprehensive stroke center and leader in stroke care in Green Bay. “The longer someone waits for treatment to restore blood flow back to the brain the greater risk they face for disability or death. In fact, one million brain cells die every minute during a stroke, increasing risk of brain damage, permanent brain disability or death.

Signs and symptoms of stroke can include: sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance; and sudden severe headache without a known reason. An easier way to remember stroke signs and symptoms is to think of the phrase/acronym, BE FAST:

B—Balance difficulty

E—Eye changes

F—Face drooping

A—Arm weakness

S—Speech slurred

T—Time to call 911

Nohara further explained these symptoms, as well as other important information about stroke in a recent episode of Prevea Health’s podcast, Plug in to Health which is available on all major podcasting platforms or at www.prevea.com/podcast. Look for the episode titled, “Recognizing Stroke: BE FAST!”

Studies show patients who arrive in the emergency department within the first three hours of stroke symptoms have better outcomes and less disability than those who delayed care. Always call 911 if a stroke is suspected.

There are numerous risk factors for stroke including age, genetics, gender and race, which cannot be controlled. However, there are several factors that increase the risk of stroke and can be controlled, including: Smoking, high blood pressure, alcohol consumption and illegal drug use, stress, diabetes, obesity, inactivity, unhealthy diet and abnormal cholesterol.

For more information, people may visit: www.prevea.com/stroke.