Stroke me, stroke me…stroke!
(name that tune)
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in America with over 780,000 strokes noted per year. It can also be survived but with significant health disabilities. The key to a better outcome is time. Getting appropriate care within the first 60 minutes can mean the difference between a full recovery and a lifetime of deficits.
There are two types of stokes. The one that happens 80% of the time is ischemic, a stroke due to a blood clot in a vessel in the brain. The other type, a hemorrhagic stroke, is from a vessel bursting. Either way, a part of your brain is dying. And fast.
You can do much to prevent a stroke just by your lifestyle choices. Keeping your cholesterol down, retaining heart health and treating (or avoiding all together) a diabetes diagnosis. And…don’t smoke. (Gawd, doesn’t it always come down to this?)
And sometimes a stroke can happen for no damn reason. My co-worker who has none of the health risk factors had a major stroke last year that took her out of commission for six months. She had had a severe, migraine-type headache, began slurring her words and lost her vision. She is back to work because she knew the symptoms to look for. However, her peripheral vision will never return.
SYMPTOMS OF AN IMPENDING STROKE
- Sudden BLURRY VISION or blindness in one or both eyes
- Sudden NUMBNESS, paralysis or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden TROUBLE WALKING, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden SEVERE HEADACHE with no known cause
- Sudden CONFUSION, trouble speaking or understanding speech
If you or another person you are with even THINK a stroke may be happening, call 911 immediately and note the time the symptoms began. In this situation, if you end up finding out that it’s not a stroke, no harm, no foul. But getting to the ER quickly can allow the special medicine, called tPA, to get in your system to stop and reverse damages. There are no do-overs.
Sometimes there is a partial or very brief blockage of a brain vessel. This would be experienced as a “mini-stroke” more formally called a TIA (transient ischemic attack). The same symptoms occur but for only a brief moment or minutes with no lasting deficits. They are also known as “warning strokes” and for good reason. You must call for immediate medical attention. If it can happen once, just know it can and probably will happen again. Don’t brush this off. Call 911… EVEN IF it has already seemingly resolved itself. You just don’t know if the next, possibly major, stroke will happen in 5 months or 5 minutes.
If I haven’t scared you straight yet, here’s another story. I used to visit a friend in a local nursing home. Lovely place, really. Lots of nice older people, elderly gents and ladies who needed nursing care at the end of their lives. Then there was Marsha. She was in her 50s. She had a home, a handsome husband…a life. Until she had a massive stroke. She lived there, too, because she needed total skilled nursing care her family was unable to provide. She will live out her days as a stroke victim in a nursing home. Now, it is important to note that she at least lived. But what if she would have known the symptoms of stroke, called 911 and received the necessary treatment to possibly avoid such a drastic life change.
answer: billy squire’s 1981 hit “The Stroke”