Signs of stroke important to know

Symptoms can appear even days in advance


Stroke symptoms can appear the day of or even days before a stroke.

One patient reported she was dropping shopping bags, and the next day she overslept which was very out of character for her. She went to her hairdresser in the afternoon and started to drop things again. She staggered on her way to the ladies room, and when she went to leave, her mouth seemed to be twisting and her speech started to slur. She walked to her car and began to drive. She ran over a bolt in the parking lot and her tire completely flattened, forcing her to go back in to the hair salon and called her brother.

Her doctor later told her that was the best thing that could have happened, because had she driven home and gone to bed - she may not be alive today.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S., a stroke occurs when there is a sudden loss of blood flow to part of the brain. This is caused by a blockage, rupture, or injury of a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Someone in our country experiences a stroke every 45 seconds. Too often, people do not recognize when a stroke is happening, losing critical time. It is crucial to recognize the signs of a stroke and call 911 or get to the emergency room immediately.

Some warnings signs of a stroke may include:

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms or leg, especially on one side

• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking and/or understanding

• Sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes

• Sudden trouble walking, loss of balance or dizziness

• Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

It is important to get to an emergency room at the first sign of a possible stroke.

Sometimes a patient has what is called a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). This is a brief episode of stroke symptoms that often resolve on their own. These symptoms can last from 1 minute to less than one hour

As a patient you should never disregard how important evaluation of these symptoms is.

Stroke Centers offer treatment that may reduce the risk of damage from the most common types of strokes. However, revolutionary treatment options, such as neuro-endovascular procedures, are only available within three hours of the patient’s initial symptoms.

Neuro-endovascular treatment offers a minimally invasive alternative to traditional brain surgery. Various minimally invasive clot retrieval devices and intra-arterial infusions can extend the time frame and improve the outcome for the treatment of stroke patients.

Timing and proper treatment can mean the difference between life and death, recovery and disability.

Research has shown that you can reduce your stroke risk by living a healthy lifestyle. It is believed that 80% of strokes are preventable. Take charge of your health by:

• Controlling high blood pressure

• Not smoking

• Eating a low fat, low cholesterol diet

• Being physically active

• Maintaining a healthy body weight

• Drinking alcohol minimally or not at all

• Managing diabetes

Talk to your doctor today about your risk factors for stroke and what you can do to control them.

John M. Whapham, MD,MS, FSNIS, is Director of Mercy Neuro-Endovascular Surgery.