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This Article Could Save Your Life

Woman's Day logo Woman's Day 4/17/2017 Barbara Brody

Knowing the Warning Signs of a Stroke Could Save Your Life © Getty Images Knowing the Warning Signs of a Stroke Could Save Your Life Knowing the signs and getting the right care after a stroke is critical.

When you have a stroke, every second counts. Receiving good care fast is key to avoiding long-term damage. For an ischemic stroke (the most common kind, when a clot impedes blood flow to the brain), the gold standard treatment is an infusion of the clot-busting drug tPA within 4½ hours.

"Getting tPA improves the chances that you'll avoid a lifetime of disability," says Steven Messe, MD, associate professor of neurology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Yet a study performed by Dr. Messe found that 25% of patients who may have benefited from the drug-especially women and African-Americans-did not receive it in time.

Experts note that in general, women tend to get less aggressive care than men do for heart attack and stroke. While awareness is improving, it's important to advocate for yourself and alert your family and friends.

Know the signs

The most common indicator of a stroke is a sudden onset of weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including the face and arms. Depending on your condition, you could try to raise both your arms up or smile in a mirror; if one arm drifts down or a grin is uneven, you likely need immediate help. Other symptoms include slurred speech, weakness in one arm, impaired vision, and dizziness. 

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(HeathDay)

Call 911

Driving yourself to the hospital or getting a ride from a friend is not a good idea. That's because emergency responders can start lifesaving treatment as soon as they arrive. Another plus of getting an ambulance: You're rushed to the head of the line.

Speak up

If you can talk, say, "I think I'm having a stroke" or just "stroke." Using the actual word in addition to describing how you feel is more likely to result in immediate attention, says Dr. Messe. "If you come in and say, 'My vision is kind of funny and my head hurts,' the ER staffer may assume it's a migraine," cautions Dr. Messe. If you live near a primary stroke center (PSC) or comprehensive stroke center (CSC), which are hospitals specially certified in stroke management, request to be taken there (or have a loved one do so for you).

How To Help

If someone appears to be having a stroke, note what time the symptoms started so physicians can decide on tPA or another treatment. At the hospital, be persistent. As doctors say, "Time is brain." Ask what's being done to determine if it's a stroke since an MRI may be in order.

Converting high risk into low risk: Between 1950 and 2000, the death rate from heart disease in the United States plummeted nearly 70 percent, and the death rate from stroke nearly 80 percent. However, although we're dying of heart attack and stroke less often, we're still getting cardiovascular disease just as often. In fact, some factors that put us at risk, such as obesity and diabetes, have become more common.We're dying less often because of the technological and pharmacological advances of modern medicine. But is your idea of a healthy future being pulled back from the brink by bypass surgery? Needing a personal secretary to keep track of your medications? Better living through angioplasty?We thought not. Far preferable is avoiding cardiovascular disease altogether. It can take some work to convert a high risk for heart disease into a low risk. But we're here to tell you that it can be done! You know the mission we're on: putting the power of stealth at the service of your health. Add up these small changes to your daily routine, and you've got a powerful dose of heart disease prevention—no coronary care units or intra-aortic balloon pumps required! These are <a href='http://www.rd.com/health/conditions/heart-doctors-heart-health/'>things that heart doctors do to protect their own hearts</a>. 30 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke (Reader's Digest)

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