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Stroke Awareness Month

May 18, 2018  |  Category: Articles

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. It’s a good time to know the symptoms for when strokes occur. According to the National Stroke Association, over 65,000 Americans will suffer a stroke this month alone.1 Many of these people will have no warning and no idea they are at risk.

Stroke is now the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, so knowing the signs and symptoms is more important than ever.2 For people who have had a stroke, there is a brief 3-hour window to receive medical care that can make a significant difference in recovery.

Over 85% of all strokes are caused by a blood clot in a blood vessel of the brain.3 For this type of stroke, there is an effective medication called Alteplase IV r-tPA. If given in time, r-tPA can dissolve the clot and help restore blood flow. However, the patient must receive this treatment within three hours of the onset of the stroke.

Think “FAST”

Recognizing the signs of stroke is essential to getting help quickly. To help understand these symptoms remember, FAST.

Face – Does one side of your face droop when you smile?

Arms – Raise both arms. Does one drift down?

Speech – Say a simple sentence. Is speech slurred?

Time – If any of these signs are present, call 911 immediately.4

A stroke is a medical emergency. As healthcare professionals, it’s important to recognize these signs so that you can provide immediate help to anyone you suspect may have had a stroke.

Know the Risk Factors

While many risk factors for stroke are beyond our control like age, ethnicity, and gender. There are many lifestyle factors that can be modified to reduce the risk.

The most common risk factors for stroke include:

  • Age – 55 or older
  • Ethnicity – African American
  • Gender – female
  • Tobacco – smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Obesity – overweight or obese
  • Poor physical fitness – limited physical activity
  • Alcohol – too much alcohol (or illicit drugs)
  • High blood pressure – greatest single risk factor
  • Atrial fibrillation – specific type of abnormal heart beat
  • Sleep apnea – untreated
  • Stroke – history of previous stroke

It is important for individuals with one or more of these risk factors to discuss them with a healthcare professional. Lifestyle changes such as keeping fit, losing weight, limiting alcohol consumption, and stopping smoking can greatly reduce the risk of having a stroke.

Nurse Assessing Stroke during Stroke Awareness Month

Types of Stroke

There are two main types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Both result in damage to the vessels of the brain and may have similar symptoms; however, they have very different causes and require very different treatment.

  • Ischemic – This type is caused when a blood clot breaks free and flows into a blood vessel of the brain. By far the most common form of stroke, ischemic strokes account for over 87% of all strokes. The treatment is removal of the blood clot to restore blood flow and can be achieved with medications such as Alteplase IV r-tPA, surgery, or a combination of the two. The sooner treatment is started, the less potential damage occurs to the brain.
  • Hemorrhagic – This type occurs when a weakened section of a blood vessel bursts, allowing blood to flow freely outside the vessel and into the surrounding brain tissue. The goal of treatment for hemorrhagic stroke is to stop the bleeding quickly. Treatment options include medication, surgery, and life support.5

As healthcare professionals, you play an important role in helping to identify and provide care for individuals affected by stroke. Since a stroke can occur at any time, you may be the first to recognize the symptoms.

X-ray monitoring of brain

Stroke Care Team

Many medical facilities have created stroke care teams. These teams are composed of a variety of healthcare professionals who come together to ensure a rapid response and continuity of care for stroke patients. A skilled healthcare administrator is essential in order for these teams to function cohesively and efficiently.6

Imaging technologists are another key member of the stroke care team. There are many imaging tests that may be used in the diagnosis and assessment of stroke, such as computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), carotid ultrasound, cerebral angiogram, and echocardiogram. These imaging tests are crucial to formulate an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. If you are interested in working with stroke patients, AHU Online offers several Advanced Imaging Certificate Programs that can prepare you for a career in imaging technologies.

Nurses play a vital role in the care of stroke patients from providing urgent care in the ER to surgical support, floor care, and rehab services. If you are interested in providing care for stroke patients, consider continuing your nursing education.

Learn more here about how AHU Online can help you reach your career goals.



  1. Jordan Ambron, “May is National Stroke Awareness Month,” National Stroke Association, April 19, 2018,
  2. “Stroke Facts,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified September 6, 2017,
  3. “Act FAST,” National Stroke Association, accessed May 8, 2018,
  4. “Act FAST,” National Stroke Association, accessed May 8, 2018,
  5. “Types of Stroke” American Heart Association, accessed May 7, 208,
  6. Jane M Cramm and Anna P Nieboer, “Professionals’ views on interprofessional stroke team functioning,” International Journal of Integrative Care, July-September 2011,