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BE FAST and save lives

A stroke, a.k.a. a “brain attack,” happens when blood flow is cut off to an area of the brain or an artery in the brain bursts open. A stroke can have far-reaching effects — on your movement, your speech, your emotional health, your brain function and even how you swallow. In some cases, a stroke can lead to death or long terms disability. 

We all know strokes are scary. But would you know what symptoms to watch for if you or someone you love was experiencing one? “The first hour after someone begins experiencing a stroke is the period when doctors are most successful in minimizing or reversing damage by restoring blood flow to the brain,” explains Dr. Ramin Zand, vascular neurologist at Geisinger. “That’s why we want everyone to be familiar with the acronym BE FAST.”

If you think someone is having a stroke, BE FAST: 

  • Balance difficulties
  • Eyesight changes
  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 911

Strokes on the rise under age 45

Stroke risk increases with age, but about 10 percent of the 800,000 strokes in the U.S. each year strike adults younger than 45. Researchers believe this is partly due to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure among younger adults. But there’s good news: These strokes are preventable.

“The same foods that help us keep our weight at a manageable level and prevent diabetes and heart disease can help prevent stroke, because heart health and stroke are closely linked,” says Dr. Zand. “Focusing on nutrient-rich foods that are good for your heart can help cut your stroke risk.”

7 ways to reduce your risk of a stroke

Learn seven ways to reduce your risk of a stroke

Foods that reduce risk of stroke

Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and contain important nutrients such as potassium, fiber, folate and vitamins A and C. Some fruits and vegetables, such as sweet and white potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, prunes, melon and soybeans, are high in potassium and can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. 

Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, albacore tuna, trout and mackerel, can help keep your blood pressure and cholesterol low, which in turn keeps your heart healthy and reduces your risk of stroke.

Whole grains are high in fiber, B vitamins such as folate and thiamin, magnesium and iron, which all promote heart health. “When grains are refined to make white bread, English muffins and white rice, many of the healthy nutrients are stripped out,” Dr. Zand explains. “That’s why we recommend choosing whole grain bread and cereal, oatmeal and brown rice.”

Low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt, milk and cheese, give you all the nutrients of full-fat dairy products, including calcium, protein, vitamin D and potassium — without all the saturated fat and cholesterol, which raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Many health complications, including stroke, can be avoided through watching your diet, exercising more, cutting back on alcohol use and giving up cigarettes. But even with proper preventive steps, strokes will occur. And when they do, BE FAST. You could save a life.

Stroke care at Geisinger

Geisinger treats all types of strokes, including the most severe. We have the best diagnostic tools, and the latest medications and protocols to treat stroke patients and provide comprehensive follow-up care. Geisinger Medical Center and AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center are designated as Comprehensive Stroke Centers — the highest level of stroke certification available. AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center (Mainland Campus), Geisinger Community Medical Center, Geisinger Holy Spirit and Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center are certified as Primary Stroke Centers. These designations mean we are able to treat the most severe and the most rare stroke events. We offer individualized treatment for each patient both in the hospital and with follow-up care. 

Next steps:
Make an appointment with Ramin Zand, MD
Get stroke care