Take the Challenge: Pledge to Help Recognize the Signs of Stroke

Quickly recognizing and taking action when a person is having a stroke is vital to minimizing any permanent damage to their body. As health care clinicians, my coworkers and I strive to educate our patients and community members on the signs and symptoms of stroke. Yet I still hear stories from patients, and sometimes even medical providers, about situations where the symptoms of a stroke weren’t recognized right away.

Recently, a middle-aged patient told me: “I have had vertigo for several years now. I usually know when I am about to get it; the room starts to spin. My physical therapist has showed me a maneuver for dealing with the condition. When I woke up on one morning I felt dizzy — nothing like I have felt before. I had double vision and tingling around my left lip. I kept waiting for the room to spin but it never did. I called my primary care physician who told me to immediately go to the emergency room. At the ER, I had a CT scan, which came negative, so I was sent home.”

When these unusual symptoms came, this patient thought they were related in some way to the vertigo and did not connect them to a stroke. His story continues, "The next day my double vision was worse, I had severe nausea, and I couldn’t walk straight. I felt as if I was overly drunk. That was the day I fell." The patient was taken to the ER via ambulance and an MRI revealed a medullary stroke.

What to Look For

The FAST acronym (Face dropping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call) is usually used to identify if someone is having a stroke. Additional symptoms to look for are:

·         Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech

·         Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

·         Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

·         Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

·         Sudden severe headache with no known cause

The key word here is SUDDEN. Together we need to spread this awareness of educating as many individuals as we can of the early signs of stroke and the importance of seeking immediate medical care.

According to a national survey commissioned by the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center (1,009 respondents), a surprising 75 percent of Americans under the age of 45 do not know the signs and symptoms of stroke. Another frightening finding was 76 percent of those say they would likely wait out symptoms of weakness, numbness, or difficulty with vision. A common problem we encounter is many younger people dismiss telling someone about symptoms because they think that strokes only occur in the elderly.

When something is painful, treatment is sought out right away. Strokes usually come with no pain and therefore are easily ignored by most people. Among people who don’t get treatment right away after a stroke, about a quarter will die, about half will live with some form of significant handicap, and only about a quarter will live with a reasonable good outcome.

Knowledge allows us to make educated choices. Be informed, recognize the signs, do not be in denial, and seek help as necessary. During this year’s National Stroke Awareness Month, I challenge all health care providers to pledge to educate at least ten people of the warning signs of a stroke. Drop by drop we will fill the ocean

 Naseem Chatiwala, PT, MS, DPT, NCS, (standing to right of the horse) is a clinical specialist in neurology and pediatrics at Emerson’s Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies. She helps patients overcome the challenges that result from strokes, vertigo, concussions and balance issues. 

Naseem Chatiwala, PT, MS, DPT, NCS, (standing to right of the horse) is a clinical specialist in neurology and pediatrics at Emerson’s Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies. She helps patients overcome the challenges that result from strokes, vertigo, concussions and balance issues. 

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Whether you’re racing the Emerson Hospital 5k Run~Walk for Cancer this weekend or a marathon later this summer, here are some tips to ensure you toe the start line primed for peak performance. These tips are provided by Crystal Fontas, DPT, chief physical therapist of facility practices at Emerson Hospital’s Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies. In addition to treating many runners and helping them prepare for their events, Crystal has completed multiple half marathons and five marathons, including the 2016 Boston Marathon.

 Join us for our annual 5k Run~Walk for Cancer. Visit  EmersonHospital.org/5k  for info.

Join us for our annual 5k Run~Walk for Cancer. Visit EmersonHospital.org/5k for info.

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  • Stick to your pre-race nutrition and fuel plan that has been working for you throughout your training – race day is not the time to try anything new.
  • Stay off your feet as much as you can in the days just prior to the race to conserve energy.
  • Ensure adequate sleep at least two nights prior to the race. 
  • Begin your hydration and carb-loading plan several days out and not simply a day or two before the event to ensure adequate reserves for race day.
  • Mentally prepare yourself for challenging features of the race by studying the course map, keeping an eye on the weather, and reading reviews and reports of the race. The fewer surprises on race day, the better.
  • Know when your exact start time is, how long you’ll need to get to the starting line, and what the weather will be at that hour of the day. Consider wearing layers on race day if the temperature will fluctuate a great deal between when you arrive and when you begin the race.
  • Perform a dynamic warm-up prior to running and static stretches following your run. Even when you’ve crossed the finish line, take care of your legs and perform some stretching!
  • If you experience any sort of dizziness, blurred vision, or you stop sweating when you are on the course, remember that these are signs of dehydration and you should seek medical attention right away.
  • After the race hydrate, hydrate, hydrate to flush out lactic acid. Good hydration should continue the rest of the day and into the next few days.
  • If you experience something other than generalized muscle soreness and it persists longer than five to seven days after your race, consider contacting a local physical therapist.
  • Try to relax and have fun! Enjoy the scenery, the positive energy of fellow runners and the crowd support!

If you are interested in an individualized running assessment performed by a trained rehabilitation staff member, please call Emerson's Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies in Westford at (978) 589-6850 or in Concord at (978) 287-8200.

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