What Every Officer Needs to Know About Strokes

Studies show that 93% of the population knows that sudden numbness on one side as a symptom of stroke. However, only 38% were aware of all five of the major symptoms and knew to call 9-1-1 when someone was having a stroke. Where do you stand on the stroke...


Early identification of stroke symptoms and FAST action is the key to surviving a stroke and to minimizing long-term disability.  Studies show that 93% of the population knows that sudden numbness on one side as a symptom of stroke. However, only 38% were aware of all five of the major symptoms and knew to call 9-1-1 when someone was having a stroke.  Where do you stand on the stroke learning curve?

Time is of the utmost importance in relation to a stroke…the magical number is to be in the ER in 3 hours or less.  It could save a life, even your own.  And yes, even arrestees and prisoners can have a stroke and it is prudent that you take notice and act FAST for them too.

Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first symptoms tend to be healthier three months after a stroke than those whose care was delayed.

Strokes - The Facts:

  1. Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.
  2. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
  3. More than 140,000 people die each year from stroke in the United States.
  4. Up to 80% of strokes are preventable; yes, you can prevent a stroke!
  5. Each year, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke.  A stroke occurs every 40 seconds.
  6. About 610,000 of these are first attacks, and 185,000 are recurrent attacks.
  7. Strokes can and do occur at ANY age.
  8. Approximately 25%of strokes occur in people under the age of 65.
  9. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55.
  10. Stroke costs the United States an estimated $38.6 billion each year( cost of health care services, medications, and missed days of work

What is a Stroke?

A stroke or "brain attack" occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel bursts spilling blood into the spaces surrounding brain cells.  This results in the interruption of blood flow to an area of the brain.  When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs.  This process is also called a cerebrovascular accident (CVA).

Brain cells die when they no longer receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood or there is sudden bleeding into or around the brain. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that specific area of the brain are lost.  These abilities include speech, movement and memory.  How a stroke patient will be affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.

Small strokes may result in only minor problems such as weakness of an arm or leg.  Whereas, people who suffer larger strokes may be paralyzed on one side; lose their ability to speak; or even die.    Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than 2/3 of survivors will have some type of persistent disability.

There are actually two types of strokes:

1.         Ischemic: blood clots block the blood vessels to the brain.  87% of all strokes are ischemic. A TIA is a transient ischemic attack, basically it is a "mini stroke" from a temporary blockage by a clot.

2.         Hemorrhagic: bleeding into or around the brain.

The Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

Remember stroke symptoms can vary from person to person or gender.  Common stroke symptoms seen in both men and women:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg -- especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Women may report other unique stroke symptoms:

  • Sudden face and limb pain
  • Sudden hiccups
  • Sudden nausea
  • Sudden general weakness
  • Sudden chest pain
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sudden palpitation

Strokes Require an Emergency Response:  What you should to if you suspect a stroke.

Assess the situation, the individual’s symptoms; take a quick history if others witnessed the stroke.  Remember this acronymACT F.A.S.T.

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