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Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital offers F-A-S-T advice for recognizing warning signs of stroke

Each year nearly 800,000 people suffer a stroke in the United States.

Stroke is the nation’s fifth leading cause of death and is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Quickly identifying the symptoms of stroke and receiving immediate treatment can minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. The emergency department at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital is one of the busiest in the region. Each year close to 500 stroke victims arrive at the hospital’s emergency department.

“Every minute counts when treating stroke and we work closely with our local EMS providers who notify our emergency department team of a suspected stroke patient prior to their arrival,” says Dr. Wamda Ahmed, neurologist, affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southwest. “The sooner we can confirm the patient has had a stroke and diagnose the type of stroke the patient has, the sooner we can begin treatment. We are equipped to make these determinations very rapidly.”

According to the CDC, about 87 percent of all strokes in the United States are ischemic strokes. Ischemic strokes occur as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ischemic stroke. If given intravenously within the first four and a half hours after the start of stroke symptoms, tPA has been shown to significantly reduce the effects of stroke and lessen the chance of permanent disability.

“Brain cells are dying as long as the blood flow to the brain is being cut off. We are trained to move quickly to determine if a patient meets the criteria for tPA to be administered,” says Dr. Ahmed. “The more brain cells we’re able to save, the more desirable the outcome for the patient.”

Dr. Ahmad says to think F-A-S-T to recognize the warning signs of a stroke.

Face: Ask the person to smile, does one side of the face droop?

Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?

Time: If you notice any of these signs, note the time and call 9-1-1 immediately.

Memorial Hermann Southwest recently received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Silver Quality Achievement Award with Target: Stroke Honor Roll. The award recognizes the hospital’s commitment and success ensuring that stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

Recognized by The Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center, Memorial Hermann Southwest is equipped to rapidly diagnose and treat stroke victims. For more information visit: or call 713-456-5000.

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