Stroke: Time lost is brain lost
Gail Carlson, MPH, PhD, former Health Specialist, University of Missouri Extension
When someone suffered a stroke before 1996, little could be done except to wait. Rehabilitation and recovery could begin once the damage was done. Today, that picture is changing. Early treatment can prevent disability and death, but fast action is needed. The longer the delay between a stroke and treatment, the more damage a stroke can do. A campaign from the American Stroke Association says it well: Time Lost is Brain Lost.
A brain attack (stroke) damages the brain just as a heart attack damages the heart. Both require emergency medical treatment. A stroke occurs when the flow of blood to part of the brain is stopped. Brain cells in the affected part of the brain don’t get the oxygen they need and start to die. When brain cells die there can be loss of function. Speech, sight, movement and/or memory can be affected. Some people who have had a small stroke experience only mild effects, like weakness in an arm or leg; some recover completely. Large strokes can cause permanent disability and death.
A stroke can be caused by a clot in a blood vessel or artery (ischemic stroke) or by a ruptured or burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Strokes occurring from clogged vessels are more common and account for 83 percent of all strokes.
Call 9-1-1 or your emergency medical service immediately if you or someone you are with experiences any of the following symptoms.
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Tell the operator what kinds of warning signs are present and when the symptoms first occurred. Health care professionals will want to know when the symptoms first started, not when they were first noticed. This is an important difference. A drug called tPA can help those suffering from an ischemic stroke but treatment must begin within 3 hours of the start of symptoms. If tPA is given more than three hours after the start of symptoms it can cause serious complications and death. Providing accurate information to your health care provider can make a difference in the kind of treatment given…
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