5 Questions: The Silent Killer
May is American Stroke Month, and the American Stroke Association answers these questions about the “silent killer.”
Q: What causes a stroke?
A: Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in or leading to the brain bursts or is blocked by a blood clot. When this happens, part of the brain can’t get the blood or oxygen it needs, so it starts to die.
Q: What happens to people who suffer a stroke?
A: Depending on the severity of the stroke, immobility or paralysis may occur.
Q: Is stroke related to heart disease?
A: Several types of heart disease are risk factors for stroke. Likewise, stroke is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease and stroke share many of the same risk factors such as high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity and being overweight or obese.
Q: What are the warning signs of stroke?
A: • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
Q: And if I’m experiencing those symptoms, what should I do?
A: Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent for you. Also, check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared. It’s very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.