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Stroke awareness — time is brain

By The Health News Team | May 1, 2023
Illustration of the human brain

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the primary cause of serious, long-term adult disability in the U.S. However, most people don’t know the most basic details about this disease.

A stroke is a “brain attack.” Blood traveling to the brain supplies oxygen and nutrients necessary for survival. A stroke occurs when an artery leading to or within the brain is blocked or damaged.

“The part of the brain that is deprived of blood will be permanently damaged if the patient does not seek treatment immediately to resolve the blockage,” says Susan Crooks, RN, who is the stroke program manager at Sharp Memorial Hospital. “The damaged area cannot be healed, which affects our ability to walk, speak, feed ourselves or possibly, understand the world around us.”

According to Crooks, there are two types of strokes:

  • Ischemic stroke — A blood clot or plaque particle blocks the artery, restricting blood flow to the brain.

  • Hemorrhagic stroke— Bleeding into the brain, resulting in pressure, leads to reduced blood flow to the brain.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when plaque formation or a blood clot temporarily blocks or restricts blood flow to the brain. A person will have symptoms of a stroke. However, the blood clot dissolves, blood flow to the brain is restored, no permanent brain damage occurs, and symptoms resolve.

TIAs are often considered a warning sign of a more severe stroke. It is important to always follow up with your doctor after a TIA to determine your risk factors and take action to prevent a stroke from occurring, Crooks says.

Stroke Symptoms

Knowing the signs of a stroke could save a life. Crooks encourages people to use the “BE FAST” method to remember the signs of a stroke and call 911 if you or another person has any of these symptoms:

B — Balance — Sudden dizziness or loss of balance or the ability to walk

E — Eyes — Sudden blurry vision or loss of vision affecting one or both eyes

F — Face
— Facial weakness or drooping on one side of the face or an asymmetrical smile

A — Arms — Weakness or numbness in the arm or leg on one side of the body

S — Speech — Difficulty speaking, slurred speech, the inability to find the right words to say or an inability to understand others

T — Time — Treatment for stroke is time sensitive. Act fast and call 911 immediately if you suspect a stroke.

The importance of immediate stroke care

Thirty million nerve cells in the brain die every 15 minutes when its critical blood supply is blocked. Treating stroke symptoms quickly can make a difference in a person’s ability to walk, return home and live independently.

Neurological experts at all Sharp hospitals work together to ensure patients receive timely access to advanced stroke treatment. All stroke patients seen at any Sharp hospital in San Diego County will receive the same exceptional treatment within the first hour of arriving on-site. From the moment a person reaches a hospital’s ER, or a hospital is notified by paramedics that a potential stroke patient is on their way to the ER, Sharp's caregivers set into a motion a well-coordinated, evidence-based response to accurately diagnose and treat the patient.

“We have several treatments for stroke that depend on when you arrive at the hospital,” Crooks says. “It is imperative that you immediately seek treatment to restore the blood supply to your brain.”

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