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Episode 43: World Stroke Awareness Day 2021

This Friday, October 29th is World Stroke Awareness Day.

Strokes have reached epidemic levels in the United States Frightening statistics compiled by the American Heart Association and the American Stoke Association estimate that in there are approximately 800,000 new strokes annually resulting in approximately 100,000 deaths each year.

By the year 2030, one in every twenty-five adults will suffer a stroke, which translates into 3.4 million individuals
Stroke is still the second leading cause of death worldwide, and the third leading cause of disability.

This year’s world-wide stroke campaign seeks to raise global awareness of the signs and symptoms of a stroke and the critical need to seek medical assistance as soon as possible after a stroke is suspected.

The theme this year’s campaign is Minutes Can Save Lives. In the past, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association have developed a saying, “Time is Brain” Both of these themes emphasize the need for prompt treatment of strokes to reduce the risk of permanent disability.

Why is time so important? Because timely intervention can stop a stroke from progressing, reverse the tragic consequences associated with strokes and save lives.

Minutes can save memories; Minutes can save mobility; Minutes can save speech; and Minutes can save independence.

There are two major classifications of stokes. The most prevalent stroke is known as an “ischemic stroke” which is caused by a blood clot within a blood vessel in the brain. This accounts for approximately 85% of all strokes.

The second type of stroke is known as a “hemorrhagic stroke” which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or ruptures restricting the flow of blood within the brain. This event accounts for approximately 15% of strokes.

In each type of stroke, the brain is deprived of essential oxygen which causes the rapid death of brain cells leading to long term disability. A stroke is a medical emergency requiring prompt diagnosis and timely treatment. Timely intervention will prevent cell death and lead to a better outcome. The tragic consequences of a stroke can be limited or even reversed if treatment is rapidly instituted.

There have been critical advances in medicine to prevent or limit the tragic consequences associated with strokes.
A clot busting drug called tPA, if administered with hours of a stroke’s onset can dissolve the blood clot leading to almost a complete if not total recovery in many patients.

Besides medication, a surgical procedure known as a thrombectomy which mechanically clears the stroke by pulling it out of the brain is now widely available. This procedure provides additional means for treating stroke victims beyond the 4.5-hour time window for tpA. Using this surgical treatment, in many patients, treatment can take place up to 24 hours after a stroke. The procedure gas been nicknamed, “Mr Clean”

So, the quicker one gets to the hospital, the sooner a firm diagnosis can be made, and the sooner prompt intervention and timely treatment can begin.

All hospitals should now have CT scans available to scan the brain to determine if a stroke has occurred. And all hospitals should have the ability to administer TPA. A neurologist should be called for rapid assessment of the patient.

So let’s learn the signs and symptoms of a stroke for early and critical recognition.

Delays in diagnosis and delays in treatment can have tragic consequences.

The recognized signs and symptoms of a stroke are:

  • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness or loss of movement to face, arm, or leg
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Sudden speech difficulty
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple sentences
  • Sudden dizziness or problems walking or balance
  • Sudden or severe headache

The word FAST, which stands for

  • Facial drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulties and
  • Time

Is a useful way of remembering stroke signs and symptoms.

When in doubt, get to the emergency department of the nearest hospital. You cannot afford to delay and any friend, relative, neighbor or co-worker who suspects a stroke should call 911 immediately and report their concerns.

Fortunately, many hospitals are now designated as stroke centers and an ambulance will transport the individual to the proper institution for care. In many cities there are even dedicated stroke ambulances which can be dispatched if a stroke is suspected.

These ambulances can take an on-board CT scan, transmitting the scan to the hospital electronically and beginning critical medicine even before the person arrives at the emergency department.

So, remember, Every Minute Counts.

Audio version

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