Stroke. What an awful word. My father had a debilitating stroke at age 50.
795,000 people have a new or recurrent stroke each year. Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the US. Stroke ranks fourth as cause of death (behind heart disease, cancer, and chronic lung disease).
87% of strokes occur when the brain does not receive enough blood. The other 13% is due to bleeding into the brain, called a “hemorrhagic stroke.” Whenever blood flow to the brain is disrupted (either by not enough blood or flooding of blood out of the blood vessels and into the brain tissue) brain function (read this: ability to perform common everyday tasks) is harmed.
Sometimes, there is a warning. This is known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is felt as neurologic changes that resolve spontaneously, without therapy. The risk for someone who has had a TIA to progress to a stroke at 2 days is 10% and at 90 days is 17%. This means, if you have a neurologic problem that goes away by itself, you are significantly at risk for a stroke to follow. An aggressive work up and risk factor modification is needed.
What are stroke symptoms? Sudden weakness on one side of the body. Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding words. Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes. Sudden loss of balance or coordination. Sudden severe headache.
- Face: Does the face look uneven. Ask the person to smile.
- Arms. Does one arm drift down? Ask the person to raise both arms.
- Speech. Does the person’s speech sound strange? Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase like “The sky is blue.”
- Time: Call 911
Why the rush to treatment? Brain cells (and future function) die fast! So, there is a 4 1/2 hour window to initiate thrombolytic (medicine to break up blood clot) therapy to help re-infuse the brain with oxygenated blood.
Hope this helps.