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Act Fast! Strokes Treatable if Caught Early
Strokes are the leading cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of death in America. In many cases, however, they don't have to be disabling or deadly. Knowing the warning signs of a stroke and acting quickly may help you or your loved one escape the damaging effects of a "brain attack." Treatments are now available that can help prevent a stroke.
Blood flow problems
Strokes are caused by problems with the circulation of blood in the brain. Blood circulation to the brain can be affected by either a hemorrhage, when a blood vessel bursts (hemorrhagic stroke), or a blockage, when a clot blocks the flow of blood (ischemic stroke).
When 1 of these problems occurs, a person may experience 1 or more symptoms that happen suddenly. The symptoms may continue or they may disappear within minutes to hours. Warning signs to be aware of include:
Numbness or weakness in the face, arms, or legs, often on 1 side of the body
Episodes of dizziness
Loss of vision in 1 eye or double vision
Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
Severe, sudden headache
It is very important to call 911 immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. Medications can be given in a hospital that can reverse the stroke, but they must be given within the first 3 hours of the onset of symptoms. Every minute counts.
Once warning symptoms are recognized, doctors can begin appropriate treatment. Treatments for strokes are very specific and depend on the type, size, and location of the blockage or disruption of blood flow in the brain. They may include the use of powerful drugs to dissolve brain clots or reduce and prevent hemorrhaging, or emergency surgical intervention may be necessary to stop bleeding into the brain. Quick action and early treatment can make a profound difference for a person's health.
Although anyone can have a stroke, certain factors can place a person at higher risk. These factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, family history of stroke, irregular heartbeat (particularly atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation), and a narrowing of the arteries. People with 1 or more risk factors should receive a stroke screening test from their health care provider. The screening can include a review of medical history, a physical exam, an ultrasound exam of the neck to detect blood flow disturbances in the carotid arteries, and blood tests for blood sugar and cholesterol levels (lipid profile).
Stroke prevention is also important. You can help prevent a stroke by getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. Keep chronic health condition,s such as diabetes or high blood pressure, under control by taking your medications and getting regular checkups.
What Is a Stroke or Brain Attack?
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of adult disability.
A stroke is similar to a heart attack. In a heart attack the blood flow is interrupted in the heart and it doesn't get enough oxygen. A brain attack is similar but blood flow to the brain is interrupted, the brain does not get enough oxygen and brain cells quickly begin to die.
Recognized as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission's Certificate of Distinction, the Broward Health Medical Center Certified Stroke Center has a comprehensive system in place for providing rapid diagnosis and treatment of stroke to patients who are admitted to the Emergency Department.
Common Questions Regarding a Stroke
What are the benefits of a Stroke Center?
- Reduced morbidity and mortality
- Advanced use of acute stroke therapies
- Fewer stroke complications
- Improved long-term outcomes
- Improved efficiency of patient care
- Increased patient satisfaction
Another way to remember stroke symptoms:
- Sudden weakness on one side of the body or sudden weakness/numbness of face, arm, or leg
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing
- Sudden trouble walking or loss of balance
- Sudden severe headache
Call 9-1-1 at any sign of stroke
Controllable Risk Factors
Many of the things that increase your stroke risk can be controlled. The diseases that increase risk can be treated. Lifestyle choices such as eating and exercise habits can be changed.
Treatable Diseases That Increase Stroke Risk:
- High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
- Atrial Fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
- High Cholesterol
Lifestyle Choices That Increase Stroke Risk:
- Tobacco Use/Smoking
- Alcohol Use
- Obesity/Excessive Weight
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
Some risk factors are controllable while others are not. The following are things you can't control but need to be aware of since they increase your risk for stroke.
- Age. A stroke can happen to anyone, but your risk of stroke increases with age. After the age of 55, your stroke risk doubles for every decade.
- Gender. Stroke is more common in men than women. But more women than men die from stroke.
- Race. If you are African American, your risk is twice the rate for whites. If you are Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander, your stroke risk is also higher than Caucasions.
- Family History. If someone in your family has had a stroke, you have a higher risk of stroke yourself.
- Previous Stroke or TIA. If you have already had a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke), you have a 25-40 percent chance of having another stroke in the next five years.
Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean you will automatically have a stroke. But because your stroke risk is higher, ask your doctor about changes you can make to prevent a stroke.
Act F.A.S.T. — You Can Prevent a Stroke!
Remember, 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Which means every year, up to 600,000 Americans could have prevented their strokes.
In the hospital, dial "22" for "Brain Attack." Outside the hospital, dial "911."
CT Scans are used to determine eligibility for "clot buster" medication. Patients only have a 4.5-HOUR window. TIME IS IMPORTANT. Act fast for strokes.
For more information about our services or a free physician referral, call the Broward Health Line at 954-759-7400.