Recognizing Stroke Warning Signs Key To Receiving Emergency Treatment

Every minute of every day, someone in the United States will suffer a stroke, also known as a "brain attack." This year, stroke will claim 500,000 victims, and of those, 150,000 will die. In addition, more than half will be severely disabled, making stroke the leading cause of adult disability and third leading cause of death in the United States.

A recent survey conducted by the National Stroke Association (NSA) showed that many Americans are not aware of the causes of stroke, how it may be prevented, or even treated. In fact, 17 percent of the 750 adults surveyed could not name any of the symptoms of stroke. Six in 10 adults were not aware that a stroke occurs in the brain, not in the heart. Another concern was that 81 percent of the respondents knew there were ways to prevent stroke, but only one in five of their physicians had suggested methods of stroke prevention. These results underscore the need for increased awareness and understanding of stroke among Americans.

What Is A Stroke?

Stroke is a "brain attack." It occurs when a blood vessel leading to or in the brain becomes blocked or ruptures. When this happens, vital blood and oxygen do not reach an area of the brain, causing brain tissue to die. A brain attack can strike suddenly, but many attacks are preceded by a warning episode referred to as a TIA (transient ischemic attack). These TIAs can last anywhere from a few seconds to several hours. More important, TIAs can serve as warning that you may be at greater risk for a full-fledged stroke.

Emergency Stroke Treatment

Until recently, there was no emergency therapy available to treat acute ischemic stroke. Hospitals can now treat stroke with a clot-busting agent known as Activase® (Alteplase, recombinant) or t-PA. Activase works by dissolving the blood clot that forms in an artery in the brain, thus restoring blood flow to the brain. But it must be given within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms and only to those who have had a brain CT scan to rule out intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding. Not all patients will meet eligibility criteria for Activase. For example, those with evidence of recent or active bleeding, or those who have had a recent stroke, uncontrolled high blood pressure or impaired blood clotting are not eligible for treatment. This first emergency treatment for acute ischemic stroke has given the medical community and patients new hope in reducing the devastating disability caused by stroke.

Stroke Warning Signs

Sadly, most people suffering a stroke wait to seek emergency medical attention, hoping that the symptoms will go away. It is critical that people learn to recognize the warning signs of stroke and seek immediate medical help at the first sign of any of the following symptoms:

Helping To Prevent Stroke

There are many things you can do to reduce your chances of having a stroke-scheduling regular checkups, controlling your blood pressure, drinking less alcohol, not smoking, maintaining a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, cutting down on salt, and staying active.(NAPSI)

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