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If you think you had a stroke

First, if someone you know shows signs of stroke, call 9-1-1 right away. A stroke is a medical emergency so don’t mess around. Get to the hospital. Quick action can reduce brain damage and future complications.

A stroke (cerebrovascular accident) occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or stopped. There are two types of strokes: Ischemic and Hemorragic. An ischemic stroke, the most common type, is caused when a major blood vessal is blocked by a clot, or a build up of fatty material. A Hemorragic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. A mini-stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack) is caused by a temporary clot. Brain cells begin to die within minutes.

Signs of a stroke include

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

If you get to the hospital within 3 hours (MedlinePlus says 4 hours) of the first symptoms of an ischemic stroke, you may get a type of medicine called a thrombolytic (a “clot-busting” drug) to break up blood clots. Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is a thrombolytic.

tPA improves the chances of recovering from a stroke. Studies show that patients with ischemic strokes who receive tPA are more likely to recover fully or have less disability than patients who do not receive the drug. Patients treated with tPA are also less likely to need long-term care in a nursing home. Stories of stroke survivors (usually those who got to the hsopital quickly), are postedon the CDC’s Stroke Survivor’s page.

Unfortunately, many stroke victims don’t get to the hospital in time for tPA treatment. This is why it’s so important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke right away and call 9-1-1.

Doctors may also treat ischemic stroke with other medicines, such as blood thinners, as well as surgery to remove the clot.

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