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Here Are 5 Important Facts About the Signs of Stroke

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Strokes don’t just happen to older adults. The effects can be reversed if treated quickly enough and can be prevented. We bust the most common stroke myths.

Strokes are scary. They’re the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and they cause disability in about two-thirds of patients. But don’t let the facts scare you away from understanding the symptoms and how to prevent a stroke.

Myth: Strokes only happen to the elderly

A stroke can happen at any age. A quarter of strokes occur in people younger than 65, and as many as 10% of stroke patients are younger than 45, according to the American Stroke Association.

Myth: Strokes and heart attacks are the same thing

Strokes are often mentioned alongside heart attacks because both are vascular diseases—diseases that affect the heart or the blood vessels. But while heart attacks affect the blood vessels in the heart, strokes affect the blood vessels in the neck or brain, which is why they’re also called brain attacks.

Myth: I don’t have a headache, so it’s not a stroke

Some patients describe the headache they experience during a stroke as the worst headache they’ve ever had. But not all strokes are signaled by a headache. Other symptoms to watch for include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on the same side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking
  • Sudden difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance

Myth: Doctors can reverse a stroke as long as you get to the hospital within four hours

About 85% of strokes are caused by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel to the brain. These strokes can be treated with a drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), but it must be administered within three hours of the onset of the stroke. Sometimes, tPA can be given up to four and a half hours after onset, but only in select patients.

Some of the worst kinds of strokes can now be treated up to 24 hours from when the symptoms began in specialized facilities like Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. But the longer the symptoms have been going on, the less likely it is that you could recover from them.

That doesn’t mean you can wait at home until the last minute. Once you get to the hospital, it takes about an hour to be evaluated for any treatment and for it to be administered. Add drive time and any other delays; you could quickly eat through half the time window or more. The best advice is to call 911 as soon as you suspect a stroke. That way, paramedics can begin evaluating on the way to the hospital and alert a stroke team, so they are ready upon your arrival.

Myth: There’s not much you can do to prevent a stroke

Not true. According to the National Stroke Association, up to 80% of strokes can be prevented. If you smoke, start by quitting. Then, focus on keeping your cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes checked with regular screenings and medication if your doctor prescribes it. Eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.

Schedule an appointment with Gabriel Vidal, MD

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Telemedicine Program Treats Stroke Victims when Time is Crucial

Programs such as Ochsner’s ASSERT telemedicine program can be valuable to patients who find themselves experiencing a stroke. Stroke neurologists are present virtually through secure wireless data and video communication 24/7. Ochsner’s stroke team evaluates patients, diagnoses, directs care and ensures that timely thrombolytic therapy is administered.