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Aging Well: Doctors say act F.A.S.T. to prevent a stroke

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Aging Well: Doctors say act F.A.S.T. to prevent a stroke

Thousands of people in Hawaii have a stroke every year. Many of them are seniors. Doctors say changing your lifestyle to prevent a stroke can help people in Aging Well.

Roland Manuel, age 69, needs a walker to stand, two years after suffering a stroke. In 2019, he says he collapsed at work. He went to the hospital, but says he was misdiagnosed as having a leg problem. A few days later, he was out with his friend when "he noticed my slurring and my language was really abrupt. He rushed me to the hospital. There they diagnosed me having a stroke. I was devastated. I didn't know I was slurring till my friend told me, 'I'm going to rush you to the hospital.'"

Manuel went to rehab and changed his lifestyle. He lost 45 pounds and now exercises more and eats a more healthy diet. "I've become more aware of my health; blood pressure, cholesterol. Everything is controlled through medication," he says.

The Department of Health says stroke is the number one cause of disability and the third leading cause of death in Hawai'i. Jen La'a works at the Community Resources Branch of the DOH's Developmental Disabilities Division. She explains a stroke "occurs when blood flow through an artery to the brain is cut off, either by a blockage or because the artery ruptures and bleeds into the brain tissue. A blockage is more common, accounting for 87% of all strokes. The average person's brain ages about 3.6 years for every hour a large vessel occlusion stroke goes untreated. Strokes are a serious medical emergency and must be treated immediately."

La'a wants people to recognize the symptoms of a stroke, and act "FAST." The acronym stands for:

F = Face drooping. Is one side of the person’s face drooping or numb? When he or she smiles, is the smile uneven?

A = Arm weakness. Is the person experiencing weakness or numbness in one arm? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = Speech difficulty. Is the person’s speech suddenly slurred or hard to understand? Is he or she unable to speak? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Can he or she repeat it back?

T = Time to call 9-1-1. If any of these symptoms are present, dial 9-1-1 immediately. Check the time so you can report when the symptoms began.

If you had a stroke before, you at a greater risk of having it again, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. "This makes sense. Even if you survive a stroke, you still have a lifetime of plaque that can cause a clog," La'a agrees.

Go to and complete a self-assessment from the National Stroke Association to assess your risk for stroke. This site also has tools and resources for stroke education, prevention, signs and symptoms of stroke, and what to do if someone is experiencing a stroke. Individuals experiencing a stroke may not realize what is happening, but if people nearby recognize the symptoms, they can provide help.

A good diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of stroke. The DOH's tips are:

• Regularly check and control your blood pressure

• Regularly check and control your blood pressure

• Quit smoking

• Maintain a healthy weight

• Eat a healthy diet low in sodium with 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables per day

• Increase physical activity, aiming for at least 150 minutes per week

• Properly manage medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.

Please talk to your health care provider before engaging in major lifestyle changes. For more information about the signs and symptoms of stroke, visit or contact the Neurotrauma Helpline at 1 (833) 333-5133.

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