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Quick reaction to warning signs of strokes can minimize damage

May 03, 2004|by Khrys Thompson

Every 45 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. Every three minutes, someone dies of one. Stroke is the nation's third most prevalent cause of death, ranking behind heart disease and all forms of cancer. Because women live longer than men, more women than men die of stroke each year. However, due in part to increased awareness, the death rate from stroke has been declining in the past few years. About 4.8 million stroke survivors are alive today, and, despite having long-term consequences from their stroke, about half of them are living in their home with help from family, friends and their community.

A stroke affects the arteries within and leading to the brain. It occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, and it starts to die. Clots that block an artery cause ischemic strokes - the most common type of stroke - which account for 70 to 80 percent of all strokes. Ruptured blood vessels cause hemorrhagic or bleeding strokes. When a part of the brain is denied blood flow, the part of the body it controls also is affected. Strokes can cause paralysis, affect language and vision, and lead to other problems.

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About 35 people are admitted to Washington County Hospital each month with signs and symptoms of a stroke. Treatments are available to minimize the potentially devastating effects of stroke. To receive treatment, though, one must recognize the warning signs and act quickly.

Before having a stroke, you may have one or more transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or miniature strokes. TIAs have similar symptoms to stroke, but they usually disappear within 10 to 20 minutes. A TIA is a warning signal that a stroke may occur soon, so you should seek emergency care if this occurs.

Symptoms of a stroke begin suddenly and include numbness, weakness, or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; trouble seeing in one or both eyes, such as dimness, blurring, double vision or loss of vision; confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and severe headache.

Learn to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Call 911 immediately if you experience the above symptoms because time lost is brain lost.




Khrys Thompson is the NeuroRehab and Pediatric Program manager for Total Rehab Care, a department of Washington County Hospital.

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