MANILA, NOVEMBER 21, 2007 (STAR) Stroke is the third leading cause of death worldwide and the number one cause of lifetime disability, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Prompt recognition of its symptoms is crucial in the prevention of serious disability or death. Yet, many are unable to recognize signs and symptoms of stroke or are unaware of what stroke is and how it can affect them.

“There’s not that much awareness out there about the signs and symptoms of stroke, and people don’t understand the seriousness of the situation,” said Dr. Tudor Jovin, co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Center for Endovascular Therapy.

Stroke, specifically ischemic stroke, is a result of blocked blood vessels that hinders the supply of oxygen to the brain.

Stroke results in permanent brain damage and disability, which is why it is important to recognize one when it occurs.

AHA, in its mission to promote public awareness about the illness, shares the following symptoms of stroke:

• 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.

Moreover, the National Stroke Association (NSA) created the acronym “F.A.S.T.” to help lay people recognize warning signs of stroke.

F is for FACE: Ask the patient to smile. If one side of the patient’s face wilts, proceed to the next step.

A is for ARMS: Ask the patient to raise both arms. If one arm drops, proceed to the next step.

S is for SPEECH: Ask the patient to repeat a short sentence. If the patient is unable to repeat it correctly and/or if the words are garbled, then proceed to the next step.

T is for TIME: If all the above signs are present, it is more likely that the patient is suffering from stroke. It is best to call the proper authorities fast or go to a nearby hospital quickly.

Although these guidelines are important in reducing brain damage, disability or even mortality, primary prevention is more important. “Deleterious lifestyles and behaviors, rather than medical conditions or genetic predispositions, are thought to be the most important and most modifiable causes of the majority of deaths from heart disease and stroke,” the AHA said.

Experts believe that it is better to manage potential blood vessel blockage through constant physician check-ups and medications.

Cilostazol is an anti-platelet agent (an agent that reduces blood clotting) that prevents blood vessel blockage and may be used to prevent stroke from occurring.

Drugs like cilostazol should only be taken with a doctor’s prescription.

Patients should be protected from risk of secondary stroke. Experience with cilostazol as an anti-platelet is supported by evidence-based trials for more than 10 years.

For information on stroke issues and prevention, call the customer hotline at 811-4723 for GMA/ Metro Manila or 1-800-1888-4723 for the provinces.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved