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Recognizing Stroke Symptoms With Dr. Jacobs

Dr. Jacobs lgBradley Jacobs, MD, MS, is medical director of the Good Samaritan Hospital Stroke Program. He is also chief of the Division of Neurology in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. Board-certified in Neurology and Vascular Neurology, Dr. Jacobs specializes in the treatment of patients with stroke and diseases that involve the blood vessels of the brain. He is researching new approaches to stroke prevention and treatment. Dr. Jacobs is a member of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Stroke Association.

The Joint Commission has recognized Good Samaritan Hospital as a primary stroke center. This distinction means that the exceptional care offered by Good Samaritan consistently meets the unique and specialized needs of stroke patients.

Good Samaritan also participates in the Get With The GuidelinesSM ,  an American Heart Association and American Stroke Association evidence-based program to ensure that care provided to stroke patients is in line with the latest scientific guidelines. In addition, Good Samaritan is a member of the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Registry, a state-based stroke registry that monitors and improves the quality of hospital care for stroke patients

What is a stroke?

Each year, more than 700,000 people experience a stroke and about 160,000 people die as a result. Stroke is the nation's third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability.

Strokes happen suddenly when the blood supply to a portion of the brain is interrupted. This can occur when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a blood clot or by plaque that has accumulated on or broken away from the blood vessel wall.  The brain’s blood supply can also be affected when a blood vessel in the brain weakens and breaks open, causing a hemorrhage. Strokes happen most often in older people, but they can occur in people of any age.

Why is it important to recognize and respond to stroke symptoms immediately?

When someone experiences a stroke, time is critical. If treatment begins within the first four and one-half hours of the onset of symptoms, damage to the brain can be limited – or even prevented.

There was a time when strokes were virtually impossible to treat. Those days are gone. Medical science has made significant advances in recent years with new treatments and medications that minimize the impact of stroke. But these tools cannot reverse damage once it has occurred. That is why it is critical to know the signs of stroke and to seek care immediately if you experience any of them.

What are some common symptoms of a stroke?

Common symptoms include sudden changes such as:

  • Weakness or numbness, especially on one side of the body or face
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Dimness, double vision or loss of vision, especially in one eye
  • Dizziness, difficulty walking or loss of coordination or balance
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Some people experience “mini-stroke” episodes called transient ischemic attacks (TIA) that last for a few minutes or several hours. TIAs are important warning signs that a permanent, more severe stroke may occur, and they should never be ignored. TIAs can be treated with drugs or surgery. If you experience a TIA, call 911 immediately.

Is a stroke the same as a heart attack?

Both strokes and heart attacks involve the blood vessels, share some of the same risk factors and can be caused by blood clots. Their consequences, however, are totally different. A stroke affects the brain and the ability to think, feel and move. A heart attack affects the ability of the heart to beat regularly and to pump blood effectively. The most important thing strokes and heart attacks have in common is the need for immediate emergency treatment.

Can strokes be prevented?

Although some risk factors for stroke, such as age and family history, cannot be changed, there are others that you can do – or not do – something to control:

  • High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and the most important controllable risk factor. A diet high in sodium (salt) can contribute to increased blood pressure.
  • Studies have shown cigarette smoking to be an important risk factor for stroke. The use of oral contraceptives combined with cigarette smoking greatly increases stroke risk.
  • Diabetes is a risk factor for stroke. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight, which increases their risk even more.
  • People with high blood cholesterol have an increased risk for stroke. A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels.
  • Being inactive, obese or both can increase the risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 

Please see your doctor to find out if you have any of the treatable risk factors for stroke or attend community screenings to be evaluated.

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