Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Philadelphia

Have Stroke Sense
Learning the Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

Imagine dizziness and nausea so severe that it causes you to collapse. Picture suddenly feeling confused without the power to speak and understand things. Try to imagine numbness and weakness down one side of your face, arm or leg. This is what it feels like when the symptoms of stroke take over.

Because stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting more than 700,000 Americans, it is important for everyone, at every age, to recognize these signs. Some other symptoms of a stroke can include problems with vision such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes, problems with balance or coordination, slurring speech, and problems with movement or walking.

Stroke, which is also called brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. Disruption in blood flow is caused when either a blood clot blocks one of the vital blood vessels in the brain (ischemic stroke), or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into surrounding tissues (hemorrhagic stroke).

If you or any of your family members or friends experience any sign or symptom of a stroke, it is important to get to the emergency department as soon as possible. Medicine called tPA, an agent to dissolve clots, is most effective when administered within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. The three-hour window of opportunity for treatment begins when symptoms begin, so patients must recognize what is happening, seek care, be evaluated and receive treatment within that period. Ideally, that hospital would be certified in stroke evaluation and treatment.

If tPA treatment is not effective, patients may be sent to a neurosurgeon for further treatment. Other treatment options can include medication, surgery, and rehabilitation.
So how can you lower your chances of being affected by stroke? Although many of the risk factors are uncontrollable — including age (most strokes occur in people older than 65), race (African-Americans and Hispanics have a higher risk than other races), and gender (stroke is more common in men than in women) — others can be reduced or eliminated.

By working with your physician to get your risk factors under control, you can reduce your chances of suffering a stroke and its often life-long consequences. Some of the controllable risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking and excessive drug and alcohol use.

People can often confuse symptoms of stroke with other things. When patients come into the emergency room with back and arm pain, a lot of times they think they are experiencing a stroke. Stroke happens all of a sudden, so it is unlikely that symptoms of chronic pain and body aches have any connection to stroke.

It is important to consult your physician so that you can work together to avoid the risk factors and to learn more about the symptoms of stroke. Regular visits to your family physician are recommended. If you experience any signs of stroke, call 911 immediately.

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