Health Tips Tuesday: Stroke Awareness Month

Dr. Sharjeel Panjwani spoke to Western Mass News with some helpful advice on how to tell when people may be having a stroke (Sponsored by TommyCar Auto Group)
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 11:06 AM EDT
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(WGGB/WSHM) - It’s Stroke Awareness Month and Dr. Sharjeel Panjwani, a neurologist from Baystate Health, spoke to Western Mass News with some helpful advice on how to tell when people may be having a stroke.

What is a stroke?

Panjwani: “Essentially, there are two types of strokes. One is called an ischemic stroke, when there is a blockage of the blood vessell, leading to brain damage. The second is when the blood vessell with burst open and lead to bleeding inside the brain. In either case, there is damage to the brain, that can lead to disability or even death.”

What are the signs that someone is having a stroke?

Panjwani: “One of the most famous mnemonics that we use throughout the world is called ‘FAST’ mnemonic. ‘F’ stands for face: someone having all of a sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the face. ‘A’ stands for arms: weakness or numbness on one side of the body. ‘S’ stands for speech problems: someone might have difficulty understanding, producing words, or slurred speech. ‘T’ stands for time: time is essential. These are some of the key signs of a stroke, but apart from that, if someone is having all of a sudden really bad headaches, dizziness, or difficulty walking, these are some of the symptoms of a stroke. The answer is to always call 911 and get to the hospital as quickly as possible.”

Why is time so critical when it comes to someone having a stroke?

Panjwani: “In the world of medicine, we use a term called ‘time is brain’ because if someone is having a stroke, every minute that goes by there’s around 1.9 million neurons (brain cells) that are dying. The earlier that you get to the hospital, the better treatment we can offer to patients.”

Are there things we can do to prevent having a stroke?

Panjwani: “When we think about brain health, it’s very similar to health for the heart. The biggest thing is having a healthy lifestyle, which could be reducing the amount of saturated fats, cholesterol. Eating foods with high fibers can help reduce the risk of a stroke. If you’re smoking, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Limiting the amount of alcohol somebody’s drinking can help. It’s recommended that males shouldn’t drink more than two drinks per day and for women, no more than one drink per day. If somebody has high blood pressure, that’s one of the biggest risk factors for a stroke, which is why it’s very important to take your medications on time for that. One of the biggest risk factors for our population is something called ‘atrial fibrillation,’ which means that if the heart goes out of sync, the blood won’t flow as well, which can lead to clot build-up, essentially leading to a stroke. Now, last but not least, always take your medications on time, especially if you’re taking blood thinners or antiplatelet, such as aspirin, because if you miss a dose and your blood is not thin enough, it can lead to a stroke. These are some of things we can do to prevent having strokes.”