Identify stroke warning signs: HPA

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Oct 17, 2018 - Page 3

About one person dies of a cerebral stroke every 44 minutes in Taiwan, but there are three main warning signs of stroke that people should learn to recognize to help save lives, the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) said yesterday.

Cerebrovascular disease has been the second, third or fourth leading cause of death in the nation in the past 10 years, according to Ministry of Health and Welfare data, the HPA said, adding that it was the fourth leading cause of death and took 11,755 lives last year.

Taiwan Neurological Society chairperson Wang Shuu-jiun (王署君) said cerebral strokes — when an artery to the brain is blocked by a blood clot or plaque buildup — account for about 70 to 80 percent of cases, and hemorrhagic strokes — when a weakened vessel ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue — are less common.

HPA Director-General Wang Ying-wei (王英偉) said although he is a primary care physician, he still feels guilty for having not noticed the warning signs of stroke in his mother several years ago, adding that 90 percent of strokes can be prevented.

If people are able to quickly recognize the warning signs and immediately take proper measures within three hours, the risk of physical disability or even death can be significantly reduced, Wang Ying-wei said.

“FAST” is an acronym that stands for three main symptoms — “facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties and time to call emergency services” — and it can be used to help people remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke.

Facial drooping can be recognized as facial asymmetry or a crooked smile, arm weakness is the sudden inability to raise one’s arm or leg fully, and speech difficulties can be recognized by slurred speech or difficulty speaking, he said, adding that it is time to call the emergency services or go to hospital if any of the symptoms appear.

The optimal timing of thrombolytic therapy for acute ischemic stroke is within three hours and it can help limit damage and disability, Wang Ying-wei said.

HPA Chronic Disease Control Division official Chia Shu-li (賈淑麗) said the “three highs” — high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and high blood sugar — and obesity are risk factors for strokes.

Drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco also increase the risk of stroke, she said, adding that therefore the HPA urges people to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly and avoid smoking or drinking to prevent obesity.