The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2050, people age 65 and older will make up 21% of the nation’s population. Our life expectancy compared to past generations is increasing, thanks in part to medical advances in treatments and prevention of diseases. At Hurley Medical Center, the goal is to make sure that our community is living not only longer but fuller lives, free of the disability that can be caused when a stroke occurs.
In the United States, stroke is among the top ten leading causes of disability and reduced quality of life, plus nearly three quarters of strokes occur in people over the age of 65. While strokes are considered to be life-threatening medical emergencies, they are also preventable and treatable, according to Hurley Stroke Coordinator, Cristi Lanning, RN, BSN.
As a Primary Stroke Center, Hurley provides on-call neurology and neurosurgery physicians 24/7, as well as a fully-functioning operating room, MRI and CT imaging, the ability to complete initial lab tests, ECG and chest x-rays, plus administer intravenous thrombolytic therapy (clot-busting medication). In May, Hurley’s stroke program received the Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus achievement award from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, recognizing Hurley’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines founded on the latest scientific evidence.
Getting immediate medical attention is vital in limiting disabilities, so Hurley collaborates with other area hospitals, researchers and Flint-area community leaders to get this message out, teaching BE FAST guidelines via the Stroke Ready program. Through a series of interactive community workshops for the Flint area, the Stroke Ready team is arming the entire community, including many seniors, with the information needed to BE FAST in getting treatment.
While some risks are non-modifiable, such as family history and history of previous stroke, there are things seniors, as well as the general population, can do to ward off a stroke.
The acronym is meant to help everyone remember the signs of stroke. B = loss of Balance – also headache or dizziness; E = Eyes, blurred vision; F = Face, one side is drooping; A = Arms, weakness in either arms or legs; S = Speech, difficulty talking or not being able to talk at all; T = Time to call an ambulance. Keep in mind that patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of the onset of symptoms often have less disability three months after a stroke than those who receive delayed care (CDC).
Risk factors are also important to know, especially for older individuals who already have one thing stacked against them – their age. Other risk factors include poor diet and nutrition, physical inactivity, smoking and tobacco use, obesity, cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and alcohol use. While some risks are non-modifiable, such as family history and history of previous stroke, there are things seniors, as well as the general population, can do to ward off a stroke.
Ways to Decrease Stroke Risk
- Work with your healthcare professional to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- If you are diabetic, follow your doctor’s recommendations carefully.
- Stay active – incorporate physical exercise into your daily routine.
- Don’t smoke. If you’re a smoker, make the decision to quit.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Eat a well-balanced diet low in fat and sodium and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Take all medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider – this includes any medication to help control blood pressure, blood sugar and/or cholesterol.
If you or a loved one shows signs of a stroke, call 911 immediately and ask to be taken to Hurley Medical Center, The Primary Stroke Center. For more information on Stroke Ready, go to facebook.com/flintstrokeready/ or strokeready.com.