It’s All About Time: Surviving & Thriving After a Stroke
When someone is experiencing stroke symptoms, time is of the essence.
“During a stroke, the brain loses seven million neurons a minute. When brain cells die, permanent damage can occur, so there is no time to lose in seeking medical treatment,” says stroke neurologist Panayiotis Mitsias, M.D. “At the first sign of a stroke, call 911.”
According to the American Heart Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. Each year, nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke. On average, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dies of a stroke every four minutes. Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability in the United States.
Who’s at Risk for Stroke?
The risk of having a stroke increases with age. In fact, the risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), strokes can and do occur at ANY age. Just over 30 percent of strokes occur in people under the age of 65, according to the CDC’s latest data.
Family history and lifestyle and health factors also affect risk for stroke, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and diabetes. A prior stroke or heart attack also puts you at a much higher risk for having a second stroke.
Signs of a Stroke
When someone may be having a stroke, remember the symptoms and be FAST:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 911
Why Timing Is So Critical After a Stroke
More than 85 percent of strokes are classified as ischemic, an acute stroke that occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel, cutting off blood flow to a part of the brain. Anyone showing signs of an acute stroke needs to be evaluated rapidly. It’s critical to determine whether or not a patient can receive such therapies as intravenous tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), in compliance with American Heart Association guidelines. This drug targets blood clots and improves blood flow. Patients who receive tPA within four and a half hours of initial stroke symptoms are more likely to recover with little or no disability than patients who do not receive the drug.
Related Topic: Dystextia: Garbled Texts May Be a Sign of Stroke
With timing of treatment so critical, it is important for those who know the patient to be aware of when the first symptoms were noticed.
At the first signs of a stroke, call 9-1-1.
Dr. Panayiotis Mitsias is a vascular neurologist, specializing in stroke care, at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.