Strokes - an interruption in the delivery of blood to the brain - are the leading cause of serious disability and the third leading cause of death in the U.S. A stroke occurs when a vessel that delivers blood to the brain is blocked or an aneurysm (balloon-like pouch on the blood vessel wall) ruptures. However, half of all strokes can be prevented by managing risk factors, according to the American Stroke Association.
- If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or carotid artery disease, make dietary and lifestyle changes recommended by your physician.
- Patients who have experienced a mini-stroke or TIA should take all prescribed medications and treatments. A TIA is a warning that should not be ignored.
- If you are a smoker, now is the time to quit.
- If you don’t exercise, now is the time to start. Lack of regular exercise can contribute to heart disease and stroke. It’s also important to maintain a proper weight and have blood tests for cholesterol, triglycerides and other elements that can indicate increased risk for a stroke. Obesity and waist size have proven to have an important impact in stroke risk: the greatest risk is for men with a waist measurement of 40 inches or larger, and women with a waist of 35 inches or larger.
- Patients with several risk factors (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity) are much more likely to suffer a stroke than those with just one or two risk factors. This is called metabolic syndrome.
- Use of illegal drugs and excessive consumption of alcohol can also raise your risk for stroke.
Strokes are not painful, so individuals must be able to recognize the symptoms of a stroke or mini-stroke, also known as TIA (transient ischemic attack), and seek medical treatment. About one-third of strokes occur in individuals younger than 65.
- Sudden numbness of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, or difficulty in speaking
- Sudden vision problems
- Sudden difficulty in walking
- Sudden dizziness and/or loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
The warning signs of mini-strokes or TIAs are the same, except that the conditions are temporary. For example, an individual might experience numbness in the face or arms, but regain feeling in a few minutes, or have difficulty seeing but then regain normal vision a few minutes later. TIAs are a warning that the body is likely to experience a stroke. It is extremely important to seek medical evaluation and preventative treatment as quickly as possible.
If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of a stroke, call 911 or visit an emergency room immediately.
Stroke victims that receive immediate treatment are much more likely to make a full recovery. Specialized treatments can significantly improve recovery and can, in some cases, greatly reduce or eliminate the harmful effects of a stroke.
Mease Dunedin Hospital offers two innovative treatments in the 3-6 hours immediately following a stroke that can significantly improve a patient’s chances of full recovery. In both treatments, a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is administered either intravenously or intra-arterially. To determine if a patient is a candidate for tPA, patients first undergo a CT scan in which the exact site of the blockage can be identified.
- Intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). This drug treatment can be administered within three hours of a stroke. tPA attaches itself to one or more clots and activates plasminogen, which breaks up the clot and allows blood flow to the brain. Not all patients are eligible for this procedure.
Patient Benefits: Patients who receive this treatment within the recommended time frame experienced less long-term damage from a stroke and have a greater chance of making a full recovery and resuming normal daily activities.
- Intra-arterial tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). This new treatment can be administered within six hours of a stroke, greatly expanding the critical time frame for immediate treatment. It is given during angiography, so the neurologist can see the clot and inject tPA directly into the blockage using a catheter.
Patient Benefits: This treatment is extremely effective and the expanded time frame allows more patients to reduce stroke damage and achieve a full recovery.
For more information about our innovative stroke treatments or for a free referral to a board-certified neurologist, please call the BayCare Customer Service Center at (727) 462-7500.