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Stroke Warning Sign Often Ignored

Hospital news | Monday, May 7, 2018
Celeste Stevens BSN, RN

You may know of the classic symptoms of a stroke; sudden drooping of the face, difficulty speaking and weakness in the arm. Those symptoms should set off alarms in your mind — it's time to call 911. Yet research shows too many people ignore the signs of a "warning stroke" or a "mini-stroke," which can precede a more serious attack.

A stroke is the stoppage of blood flow to the brain; either because of a blood clot or a weakened or burst blood vessel. Brain cells begin to die without oxygen, possibly leading to brain damage or even death.

What makes a minis-stroke or a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) different from an actual stroke is that blockage is temporary. The blood flow to the brain resumes without medical intervention. When the symptoms go away, people tend to think the danger is over. However, you are more likely to have a full stroke after experiencing a TIA. Cardiovascular Clinician Celeste Stevens BSN, RN makes sure the stroke program at Iredell Memorial meets and exceeds national standards.

"Whether or not the symptoms continue, call 911," said Stevens. "With the proper diagnosis and treatment, it's possible to stop a full blown stroke from happening after a TIA."

Last year the American Heart Association released the results from research that found about one in three Americans have had symptoms of a TIA. Only three percent of those people sought immediate medical attention. TIA symptoms resemble those of a stroke, including weakness or numbness on one side of the body, slurred speech, blindness or double vision, dizziness and a sudden, severe headache.

"The key to recognizing the symptoms of a stroke or a TIA is how quickly the symptoms begin," said Stevens. "The onset is sudden and the symptoms have no other apparent cause."

Treatment for a TIA can include lifestyle changes, medication and sometimes surgery to prevent a stroke in the future.

"Timing is important, whether you are having a full blown stroke or a TIA," said Stevens. "In the case of a stroke, we only have a short period of time to administer a clot-busting drug that can drastically improve your chances of survival and lower your chances of a life-altering disability."

Iredell Memorial is a Primary Stroke Center, which means there are trained staff and procedures in place to diagnose and treat stroke patients.

"We see too many people who wait to get help or have someone drive them to the hospital," said Stevens. "You should always call 911. That starts the response immediately, even before you get to the hospital. When it comes to stroke, there's no time to waste."