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Stroke: What to Expect From the Unexpected

Strokes often strike suddenly and without warning. With close to 700,000 people suffering strokes each year, according to the American Heart Association, it is essential to know what to do should the unexpected happen to you.

A stroke occurs when the brain is damaged because of a blood clot (an ischemic stroke) or bleeding into the brain (a hemorrhagic stroke).

“The best thing you can do to prevent a stroke is to live a healthy lifestyle — don’t smoke or drink excessively, exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet,” says Sheri Muska, R.N., stroke program coordinator at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. “Assuming no contraindications exist, a daily baby aspirin is a good blood thinner that may help reduce your risk for stroke.”

When Stroke Hits

If a friend or family member exhibits symptoms that suggest a stroke, call 911 and inform the dispatcher immediately that you believe your loved one is having a stroke. First responders can evaluate the patient en route to the hospital and notify the hospital team to prepare for the patient’s arrival.

“With an ischemic stroke, we have a short, three-hour window of opportunity during which we can administer tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) — a clot-busting agent,” says Muska. “Not everyone is a candidate for tPA, but the faster the response to stroke, the greater the chance we can save brain tissue.”

After Stroke

Stroke recovery can be a long process, and it can take months to relearn abilities or regain independence. No matter what challenges a patient is facing, it’s important to realize that there is a great deal of help and support available.

“We have people of all ages in our stroke support groups,” says Muska. “Stroke victims often have trouble going out in public and can feel conspicuous, but as a support network, we’re here so that no one goes through the recovery process alone.”

Act Fast

The American Stroke Association encourages you to act quickly if you believe you or someone you know may be having a stroke. The faster treatment is received, the better the chance of recovery. Be aware of the sudden onset of these symptoms:

• Difficulty swallowing

• Dizziness

• Double vision

• Numbness or weakness in one side of the body or limb

• Severe headache

• Slurred speech

Designated Stroke Centers

The following hospitals are designated Primary Stroke Centers by The Joint Commission:

• Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital

• Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth

• Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford

For more information about neuroscience services at a Texas Health hospital, please visit TexasHealth.org/neurosciences or call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355).

(Fall/Winter 2009)

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