Nerosciences - Neurology
Know the Risks and Warning Signs of Stroke
The fourth leading cause of death in the United States, stroke requires immediate treatment. Understanding the risk factors and knowing the signs and symptoms are crucial to being able to recognize and react if you or someone you are with is having a stroke.
There are a number of factors that increase your risk of stroke, explains neurologist Paul Driscoll, M.D. Age, high blood pressure, diabetes, tobacco use, high cholesterol and heavy alcohol consumption. Men also have a higher risk of stroke than women. It is important to maintain appointments with your physician or health care provider to ensure that you are aggressively treating any conditions that increase your risk.
Warning signs and symptoms include:
- Facial weakness
- Slurred speech
- Weakness of one side of the body
- Numbness in one side of the body
- Abrupt change in balance or the ability to walk
- Loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Sudden onset of headache
Dr. Driscoll stresses the importance of calling 911 as soon as you or someone you are with experiences any of these signs or symptoms. Do not drive to the hospital or the doctor s office, he says. Call 911. The EMTs are trained to assess and detect stroke, and you will be taken to the primary stroke center closest to your home.
Once at the hospital, the neurologist will determine the best plan for treatment, which can include the use of an intravenous injection of tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), or a clot-busting medication. TPA must be given within four-and-a-half hours of the onset of symptoms, Dr. Driscoll says. Other treatment can include the use of aspirin and blood thinners. Patients are usually hospitalized two to four days, while they are medically and neurologically stabilized.
Then, depending on their capabilities and rehabilitation needs, they are discharged home or to a skilled nursing facility.
The American Heart Association says time lost is brain lost, so remember the warning signs and symptoms and call 911 right away.
Stroke Alert: Racing the Clock
Paul Driscoll, M.D.
Florida Neurology Group
12670 Whitehall Drive
Fort Myers, FL 33907