During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people being evaluated for signs of stroke has dropped by nearly 40 percent. Neurologists from Intermountain Healthcare are reminding people if they have any signs of a stroke to seek immediate medical attention.

Around 33,000 brain cells die every second during a stroke, and if someone waits too long to seek treatment, irreversible damage or death can occur, said Dr. Megan Donohue, a neurologist at the Intermountain Healthcare Neurosciences Institute.

A stroke is a brain attack and requires immediate medical attention. However, a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the number of people being evaluated for signs of stroke has dropped by nearly 40% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study analyzed stroke evaluations at more than 800 hospitals across the United States and found that many people who experience strokes may not be seeking potentially life-saving medical care.

Intermountain Healthcare is reassuring people that hospitals and clinics are safe for anyone who comes to seek treatment and they should not delay life-saving care, said Dr. Donohue.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic some doctors have seen cases of patients waiting too long to seek life-saving treatment and we certainly don’t want that to happen,” said Dr. Donohue. “When it comes to a stroke, time lost equals brain lost. The more rapidly we’re able to recognize a stroke and provide interventions to restore blood flow, the more likely the patient is to have a positive outcome.”

Each year there are more than 795,000 strokes in the U.S. Every 40 seconds, someone has one, and every four minutes, someone dies from a stroke. May is national stroke awareness month.

If you’re having a stroke, your best chance at recovery is to have a fast response time. The sooner you get to the hospital and receive the proper treatment the better chances of survival.

Know the signs of stroke:

About 40 percent of people in the United States can’t identify at least one of the symptoms. A good way to remember the signs of stroke is by using the acronym BE FAST.

B = Balance – sudden dizziness or loss of balance and coordination
E = Eyes – sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
F = Face – sudden weakness of the face (Does one side of the face droop?)
A = Arm – weakness of an arm or leg
S = Speech – sudden difficulty speaking
T = Time – time the symptoms started

Neurologists remind people that strokes can happen at almost any age and that’s why it’s important for anyone experiencing these symptoms to seek emergency care immediately.

“However, strong risk factors of a stroke include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. You should also know your family history and the type of stroke any family members have suffered,” said Dr. Donohue.

If you think you’re having a stroke, call 911 immediately.

If you have stroke-like symptoms, but they go away, you may have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is an indicatory that you are likely to have a full stroke in the near future.

Dr. Donohue advised people not to ignore a TIA. “People should get immediate care,” she advises.

The Intermountain Healthcare Neurosciences Institute is home to one of the most sophisticated stroke centers in the western United States. The Institute treats more stroke patients than any other hospital in Utah and is the state’s only Joint Commission Comprehensive Stroke Center.