Cardiovascular disease, which includes both heart disease and stroke, is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Canada and across the globe. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, there are currently more than 400,000 Canadians living with long term-stroke disability. A stroke is a medical emergency – the sooner someone suffering from a stroke receives medical attention, the better his/her prognosis will be. The longer you wait, the more brain cells will die from stroke – 1.9 million brain cells die every minute after a stroke. In an effort to improve stroke awareness and education in our clinic’s North York community, The Medical Station is exploring the signs and symptoms of stroke.
What is Stroke?A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function. It can result from either the interruption of blood flow to the brain caused by a clot (ischemic stroke) or bleeding due to a rupture of brain blood vessels (hemorrhagic stroke). The result of stroke is the death of the neurons in the affected area. Without the steady flow of blood, the brain is deprived of its needed oxygen and nutrients. The effects of stroke vary depending on which part of the brain was affected and how much damage was sustained. A stroke can affect one’s ability to move, see, remember, speak, reason, read, or write.
Risk FactorsAnyone can experience a stroke. There are however, certain factors that increase one’s risk of stroke. Some of the risk factors include:
- High blood cholesterol
- Atrial fibrillation
- Being overweight
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Physical inactivity
- Older age
- Gender – until menopause women have a lower risk of stroke than men
- Family history of stroke
- Ethnicity – First Nations and individuals of African or South Asian descent are at a higher risk than other ethnicities
- History of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) or “mini-stroke”
Learn the Signs of Stroke
The Medical Station believes that everyone needs to know the signs of stroke – you never know when it will affect someone. The Heart and Stroke Foundation says too many Canadians don't recognize the signs of stroke and don't know what to do when they see them. It is estimated that 66% of Ontarians who have a stroke don't make it to the hospital to receive time-sensitive treatment – this results in increased death and disability. In an effort to assist with stroke management in our North York community, The Medical Station is sharing the widely accepted and promoted acronym for stroke identification & action.
In addition to FAST, there are a few other symptoms of stroke you should be familiar with:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If Someone is Having a Stroke
Call 911 immediately and note the time at which the symptoms began. Do not drive the individual to the hospital, an ambulance will be faster and can take you to a nearby hospital with specialized stroke care. Once you arrive at the hospital you should immediately receive medical attention. If you do not, be sure to let someone from the emergency department team know. You may be asked to provide medical history and information about the symptoms and onset. The emergency department staff will do a brain scan to find out what kind of stroke it is, where in the brain it occurred, and how best to manage it.
The Medical Station Works toward Stroke Prevention & Recovery
In addition to our clinic’s role in stroke education and symptom awareness, The Medical Station works with those living in North York and the GTA who are at a high risk for stroke or who have experienced a stroke. If you or a loved one may be at a high risk for stroke, our clinic staff can work with you to conduct a risk assessment and help develop an individualized prevention action plan with you.