Acting F.A.S.T. may save a life

In three hours, you can see a long movie, drive to New York City, or save a life. There is a three-hour window in which a stroke victim will benefit most from your help. Every 4 minutes someone in the United States dies from a stroke. Your knowledge and fast action may change that statistic.

A stroke means the brain is under attack. The brain is the epicenter of the body, controlling everything from thoughts to heartbeats and breathing. There are two types of stroke, and both are life threatening. Ischemic means there is a blockage - usually a blood clot. Hemorrhagic means that a blood vessel is bleeding into the brain. Both types mean less oxygen to cells, so they can start to die. Anyone can have a stroke. The risk for having a stroke increases as we age. African Americans, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives are at greatest risk, followed by Hispanics, then Caucasians. Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being obese and/or smoking raises the stakes even more.

The most common signs of a stroke come on suddenly and include:

 Numbness/weakness in the face, arm or leg; especially just one side of the body
 Confusion with language- slurred words, unable to find words, trouble understanding
 Blurry vision
 Trouble walking - dizziness, loss of balance/coordination
 Severe onset of headache

Act F.A.S.T. if you suspect a stroke following these steps:

If you decide “this is a stroke”, – call 9-1-1. Tell first responders when symptoms started.

The best defense is a good offense, so work on prevention. Quit smoking. Lose excess pounds and keep them off. Throw on walking shoes since regular physical activity helps. Make healthy food choices such as whole grains, heart healthy fats and low sodium foods.

Finally, certain fruit and veggies are linked with lowering risk - apples, green leafy vegetables, citrus, pears, berries, root vegetables, onions, leeks, and garlic.

It took 160 minutes to write this article. We know that every 4 minutes, someone dies from a stroke; meaning 40 people may have died during this time. Don’t let this happen to someone you love…act F.A.S.T.

Jennifer Giffune, R.D.N. is a freelance author, professional speaker, and nutrition counselor. Are you ready to make a change? Jennifer sees clients for nutrition counseling in Westfield and on-line. To make an appointment with Jennifer, call (413) 579-5450 or email her at

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