Act Quickly to Limit Stroke Damage
Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in America and is
one of the leading causes of long-term disability. A stroke
occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to
the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When this
occurs, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it
needs, so it starts to die.
Larry Goldstein, M.D., a professor of medicine and director
of the Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center, says
there are common warning signs of stroke that people should
learn to recognize: "These are sudden onset of numbness or
weakness, particularly on one side of the body, difficulties
with speech or understanding speech, severe headache, new or
abrupt problems with coordination or loss of vision in one eye
or seeing to one side.
"These are all symptoms that may indicate a stroke," adds
Goldstein, who serves as chairman of the advisory committee of
the American Stroke
Association. "It's very difficult for individuals to sort
out what these symptoms may mean. In my mind, it's not even
necessary that someone recognize that these are the signs of a
stroke. The response should be, 'Something is wrong, and I need
to get the person to a hospital right away so that something
may be able to be done.'"
The longer it takes to get a stroke victim to the hospital,
the greater the chance of brain damage, long-term disability or
death, Goldstein notes.
Goldstein says if you suspect someone's had a stroke, every
minute counts. "The response should be to call 911. If 911 is
activated, the likelihood that a patient will get to a hospital
and that something can be done right away is much better than
if they don't call 911."
The Web site of the American Stroke
Association, http://www.strokeassociation.org, provides
extensive information on stroke prevention and treatment, as
well as statistical fact sheets to help people assess their
risk for having a stroke.