May has been National Stroke Awareness Month, and Mille Lacs Health System would like to remind patients that a stroke is not just something that happens to the elderly. Anyone can have a stroke at any age. Know the signs and be confident that if you are experiencing symptoms of stroke, MLHS is an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital. The Minnesota Department of Health will designate a hospital as Stroke Ready if it meets the criteria regarding standards, guidelines and best practices.

The Minnesota Stroke System committee has commended the health system’s stroke code protocol, which involves key components in providing safe and effective care to stroke patients.

MLHS uses state-of-the-art stroke diagnostic technology – through a telemedicine “robot” in the ER which communicates to stroke specialists at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale – to confirm the diagnosis of stroke and use of a “clot busting” medication which may improve outcome.

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and is a leading cause of adult long-term disability, but younger people are also at risk for stroke. In many cases, stroke victims have significant increases in high blood pressure, lipid (cholesterol) disorders, diabetes, tobacco use and obesity. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, recent research indicates that controlling high blood pressure may be the best preventative for not only stroke but dementia.

MLHS COO Kim Kucera said, “We are very fortunate that both our ambulance and emergency department staff know how to recognize stroke early and can rapidly initiate the evaluation, treatment and rapid transport when stroke symptoms present in patients. Being able to deal with stroke victims swiftly and competently serves an important need for both the Mille Lacs community and visitors to our area.”

As with many medical emergencies, time is of the essence, and people should be aware of the symptoms of stroke as many stroke treatments are time-dependent. By waiting to see if symptoms improve, patients may not be eligible for specific treatment(s). The FAST acronym to remember is: 

•Face – look for an uneven smile.

•Arm – check if one arm is weak.

•Speech – listen for slurred speech.

•Time – call 9-1-1 immediately.

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