Your Healthy Community: Knowing the risk factors, symptoms of stroke

By Katie Sciba
May 16, 2014 at 12:16 a.m.

Katie Sciba

Katie Sciba

The gravel began to crunch on the county road that narrowed and crept down to a creek. Finding a patient's home can be an adventure. The water was rushing because of the storm the night before. I slowed my car to a stop.

I couldn't tell how deep it was, and I didn't know if it was safe to cross. I got out of the car and threw a few fat rocks in to gauge the depth, but the rocks washed over in the current. I weighed the risk factors and then decided it was now or never. I hit the gas and splashed to the other side.

We don't always make health decisions with thought, care or risk factors. Health decisions can be like crossing deep water. You can't always know how deep of an impact one's decision will make, but it's best to be the one making the decisions. Sometimes, a disease or a stroke takes charge of our bodies and makes changes we can't control.

I'm always impressed with what our community has to offer us with health education. Since stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America (CDC, 2014), I asked Joan Pfister, a registered nurse with DeTar Hospital to help us learn more.

Pfister has been the director of the DeTar Hospital Cardiac Rehab Program and the co-coordinator (with Donna Oldmixon, another registered nurse) with the stroke prevention program for about eight years.

The DeTar stroke program utilizes evidence-based guidelines from organizations like the American Stroke Association with a purpose of providing the best care for stroke patients.Pfister enjoys providing education for stroke patients, teaching lifestyle changes to reduce personal risk factors for stroke.

Pfister said the biggest indicator for a stroke is sudden onset of the following: weakness on one side, difficulty in speech, trouble understanding or confusion and trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

Pfister teaches an acronym to help people understand if signs or symptoms of a stroke are identified. The sooner the treatment of a stroke, the better the chances of recovery. The acronym is FAST.

Face: Have the person smile and ask: Does their smile look even?

Arm: Instruct the person to close their eyes and raise both arms. Does one drop or flop?

Speech: Have the person speak. Is their speech slurred, or are they having difficulty getting words out?

Time: If the answer to any of these questions is yes, call 911.

"Stroke doesn't usually cause pain, which often will trigger a person to seek medical help. With the sudden onset of stroke symptoms, many individuals feel they should go lie down to rest. This can take the person out of a possible window for effective treatment." Pfister said.

Pfister's stroke prevention keys:

1. Avoid smoking.

2. Maintain healthy blood pressure.

3. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

4. Know your ideal body weight and maintain it.

5. Aim for good cholesterol levels.

The DeTar Stroke Program will be offering 4 hours of continuing nursing education for nurses featuring experts from the Comprehensive Stroke Center from St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital next week. Call Charlene Adams at 361-788-6135 for more information.


Katie Sciba is a writer, a licensed social worker, a pastor's wife and a mother from Victoria. She works for AARN Health Services and blogs online at Always Simply Begin.



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