Stroke education can save lives

Submitted Photo Trinity Health’s Stroke/STEMI Coordinator Jerilyn Alexander talks to the stroke survivor and caregiver support group at Trinity Riverside on May 15.

With a growing number of people experiencing strokes, community awareness of the signs of stroke and what to do has become increasingly important, according to Jerilyn Alexander, Stroke/STEMI coordinator at Trinity Health.

Trinity has been working to increase awareness during May, which is National Stroke Awareness Month.

There are two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

Ischemic strokes are the most common, caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow to part of the brain, depriving the brain cells of oxygen and causing permanent damage if not mitigated as soon as possible. Ischemic strokes make up 87% of all strokes in patients, according to Trinity Health.

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and causes blood to fill the cranium. The remaining 13% of all strokes are this type.

According to data collected by Trinity Health, 119 walk-in patients and seven inpatients already at the hospital were treated within 24 hours of the onset of stroke symptoms in 2013. In 2023, the number of external patients coming in was 362 and the number of in-patients was 31.

The number of strokes being reported is going up for multiple reasons. One of the reasons stroke is increasing, Alexander said, is the age of people experiencing stroke symptoms is getting younger.

Health plays a vital role in keeping strokes at bay, including eating healthy and staying active. Alexander noted that with technology becoming so integrated in people’s daily lives, younger generations likely aren’t as active as their elders were when they were the same age.

Another factor that could contribute to the increase in stroke patients is that people are becoming more aware of what to watch for in themselves or others.

Common risk factors include, but are not limited to, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, heart disease, diabetes, family history of stroke, previous stroke, obesity, smoking, alcohol or drugs and sleep apnea.

Alexander oversees a stroke survivor and caregiver support group on the third Wednesday of each month at Trinity’s Riverside location near the fairgrounds, beginning at 7 p.m. The group has been meeting since 2013, and some early members still attend and help welcome new people to the group.

The first 15 to 20 minutes are generally focused on education about the month’s topic. The remaining time is allotted for attendees to talk about their experiences with strokes or to share words of wisdom from the perspective of a caregiver to someone who suffered a stroke.

The group is open to whoever would like to attend.

Alexander said following the acronym B.E.F.A.S.T. (balance, eyes, face, arms, speech and time) is of the essence. If anyone sees any changes in those features of a person, call 9-1-1 immediately to report a possible stroke.

Alexander said if people call the hospital before arriving or call for an ambulance, that gives personnel the time needed to prepare an intravenous (IV) drip with the clot-busting medication that could save someone’s life if given within four hours of symptom onset for ischemic strokes or within 24 hours of a hemorrhagic stroke.


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