A stroke, also referred to as a “brain attack,” is an interruption of blood flow to the brain causing death to the immediate area’s brain cells. The longer blood supply is cut off from the brain, the more severe the damage becomes. Acting within one hour of a stroke can greatly improve chances of recovery.
There are two kinds of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke is the most common and is characterized by a blood clot in an artery to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs 20 percent of the time, occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds onto the brain. Although it is less common, a hemorrhagic stroke is usually fatal. After a stroke, patients can experience anything from mild cognitive dysfunction to paralysis.
Know the Signs
Symptoms of a stroke include sudden headache, difficulty seeing, dizziness, loss of coordination, confusion, trouble speaking and understanding words, and sudden numbness/weakness in the arms, legs or face. Numbness or weakness usually occurs on one side of the body.
Stroke symptoms may vary depending on the individual. Women diagnosed with stroke often reported nontraditional symptoms, including fainting, chest pain, trouble breathing or seizures.
Treatment for a Stroke
When someone suffers a stroke, they should be seen by a doctor within one to three hours to receive t-PA, a medication that dissolves blood clots. t-PA is commonly administered for ischemic strokes. Patients who receive t-PA within three hours were 30 percent more likely to make a full recovery than patients who did not receive it.
Some stroke patients are eligible to receive a thrombectomy, the physical removal of a blood clot from the affected area of the brain. Doctors use what is called a stent retriever to manually remove the blood clot. This procedure is typically performed within six hours of a stroke, but can be done up to 24 hours after onset of symptoms, provided that the patient meets certain criteria.
Residents of Merced, Atwater, and the San Joaquin Valley in general have a higher than average risk of death due to stroke. Up to eighty percent of strokes are preventable. To lessen the likelihood of contracting a stroke, avoid smoking and ensure that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea and heart disease are under control. Family history of stroke is also a risk factor, so talk to your doctor about a prevention plan.