Stroke Awareness: To the Brain, Time is of the Essence

The phrase "time is brain" often arises in the context of a stroke and emphasises that human nervous tissues are rapidly lost as more time passes after a stroke has occurred. For each hour that the patient is not treated, the brain loses as many neurons as it normally would in almost 3.6 years of ageing.

"Every second, every minute counts," says Dr Siva Seeta Ramaiah, consultant physician and neurologist at Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC).

Stroke is the fifth most common cause of death in Malaysia. When a person suffers from a stroke, it is essential that the patient receives treatment as soon as possible, as there is still time to reverse the process and save the brain cells.

If you see signs of a stroke in a loved one or if you feel the symptoms yourself, there are a couple of things that you need to do. First, note the time of the stroke. Next, immediately get to a hospital.

Time is essential for brain stroke

"Time is important," says Dr Siva. "You don't want to waste time by going to a clinic or hospital that does not have the services to treat a stroke patient." Once the patient arrives at the hospital, a quick assessment is done, which includes assessing the patient's medical history (which includes time of stroke) and a full medical examination. Next, to confirm that the patient has indeed experienced a stroke, the patient will undergo a CT scan of the brain. Only once the stroke has been confirmed can neurosurgery doctors initiate necessary treatment.

However, not everyone is aware that time is essential. "Even in developed countries, only 10% of stroke patients get to the hospital in time," says Dr Siva.

"Some of our patients wait a while before coming in for treatment. They may even wait until their children have come home from work before they come in for treatment, even though the stroke happened in the morning. In those cases, there is not much we can do."

Common misconceptions about stroke

The ideal situation for a suspected stroke patient is to seek urgent medical attention. However, Dr Siva explains that this is often not the case, as many stroke patients believe in alternative treatments.

"I had a patient who, after realising she was having a stroke, took a needle and pricked her ear. Don't do that! Get to a hospital as soon as possible," stresses Dr Siva.

Another common misconception is that once you have a stroke, your life is over, because you would be in a vegetative state. However, this is not entirely true. Because of medical advancements, we can reverse the process if the patient comes to the hospital on time.

Time is key in saving a stroke patient's brain from irreversible damage. If you or your loved ones suffer from a stroke, don't wait, and act fast!

Quick action saves lives – BE FAST stroke

Time is of the essence when it comes to a stroke and knowing just what to look out for can make all the difference. By knowing the signs and symptoms, you can take quick action and possibly save a life. Below are easy ways to remember what you need to look for.

Facial drooping

Does the face feel numb? Is it drooping on one side? Ask the person to smile, and see if their smile is uneven.

Limb weakness

Is an arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms and see if an arm drifts downwards.

Slurred speech

Is their speech slurred? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue".

Act fast

Time is brain, so react fast. Call the ambulance or take the person to the hospital immediately.

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