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The photograph used to illustrate the new “Speak Up for Stroke” campaign by The Joint Commission—an independent not-for-profit group that accredits more than 19,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States—vividly captures its central message: When it comes to stroke, every minute counts. In the image, a nurse leans over an older man on a bed, listening to his heart with a stethoscope. Her hand presses on his shoulder reassuringly while her eyes gaze intently at the time.
The bilingual English and Spanish campaign is a first-time collaboration between the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses, the American Heart Association (AHA)/American Stroke Association, the National Stroke Association, and the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (Go to jointcommission.org/speakup.aspx for more information.)
Other Joint Commission “Speak Up” programs, all designed to motivate people to take a more active role in their health care, focus on breastfeeding, dialysis, visiting the doctor's office, understanding medical tests, recovering after leaving the hospital, preventing medication and surgery mistakes, and preparing to become a living organ donor. Adding stroke to this history of programs is an acknowledgement that preventing stroke is a major public concern.
“One of the great impediments to early and effective treatment of stroke is the late arrival of many patients who were otherwise good candidates for treatment,” says Bruce Sigsbee, M.D., Fellow and president of the AAN.
“In addition to having the appropriate team in place to rapidly assess and treat patients, it is important to educate the public on the signs of stroke and the need to get to the emergency department right away.”
“There is now a common perception that we need to be doing more to improve stroke care,” adds Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., M.S., Fellow of the AAN and AHA, and past president of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. “It makes sense for all of us working in the field to combine efforts and start moving forward on prevention,” Dr. Sacco says.
According to The Joint Commission, much current stroke research focuses on risk factors, the process of brain damage that stroke causes, the genetics of stroke, ways to help the brain repair itself after a stroke occurs, and how to prevent reoccurrence—approximately one of out of four stroke patients have another one.
“Any program that improves education about stroke, and ways to catch it early, will greatly improve people's health in this century,” Dr. Sacco notes.
“Speak Up for Stroke gives a name to the efforts we all need to undertake to educate the public about the warning signs,” Dr. Sigsbee says. “With stroke, every minute counts, so it's important that people pay attention to any symptoms and call 911 in order to get to an emergency department as soon as possible.”
Stroke strikes fast. You should too. Call 9-1-1 if you experience any of these signs:
▸ Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
▸ Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
▸ Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
▸ Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
▸ Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Call 911 immediately if you or someone you are with shows signs of having a stroke. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital.
Stroke can happen with just one of these symptoms, and the symptoms can vary. In addition, the symptoms can either start slowly or come on quickly.