Each year, May is recognized as National Stroke Awareness Month. At Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH), we strive to help educate our community about stroke prevention, signs and symptoms of stroke and the latest treatment options available at TMH to help save not only your loved ones’ lives, but potentially your own.
What is a stroke?
There are two main types of stroke – ischemic and hemorrhagic.
An ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow and oxygen are cutoff from reaching the brain tissue because of a clot or blocked blood vessel. You can think of this as a clogged pipe. This clot usually forms somewhere else in the body and travels to the arteries in the brain. It continues to travel until it reaches a vessel small enough to completely block, stopping normal blood flow in that vessel. This can happen instantly when a larger clot is released, or over time as plaque builds up on the lining of a vessel making that vessel narrower. Ischemic strokes account for roughly 87 percent of all strokes.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a vessel in the brain bursts, causing bleeding in the brain. You can think of this as a leaky pipe. This can happen when a person has uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure), but can also be caused by other diagnoses, one being a brain aneurysm. During a hemorrhagic stroke, blood spills into or around the brain and creates swelling and pressure. While only 13 percent of all strokes are hemorrhagic strokes, they are responsible for 40 percent of all stroke-related deaths.
What does a stroke look like?
A stroke is a medical emergency and every second counts. If you or someone around you has any sign of stroke, BE FAST and call 9-1-1 immediately. Being able to quickly recognize stroke signs and symptoms is crucial to receiving quick and effective stroke treatment.
Common stroke symptoms include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Stroke treatment depends on you.
While we have advanced capabilities to treat even the most severe strokes, stroke care depends on you. Calling 9-1-1 as soon as you notice symptoms gives providers the chance to save billions of brain cells that cannot be replaced. Be sure to note the time of the first symptom, as this is important and can affect treatment decisions.
TMH is the only hospital in the region providing comprehensive stroke services – meaning we have the most advanced stroke treatment options – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. Depending on the type of stroke and time since onset of symptoms, stroke treatment can vary.
Treatment may include administering medication to dissolve blood clots (called tPA), identifying blocked blood vessels causing the stroke and removing the blockage (called thrombectomy) and placing coils within ruptured brain aneurysms to stop bleeding (aneurysm embolization). These cutting-edge interventions provide rapid treatment to minimize the long-term effects of stroke, improve neurologic outcome and prevent death.
Most strokes could’ve been prevented.
While there are stroke risk factors outside of our control, such as gender, genetics, race and age, many risk factors are related to our daily habits. You can reduce your chance of having a stroke with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Talk with your doctor and loved ones about any of these risk factors that may apply to you.
Risk factors that can be changed or treated include:
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity or obesity
- High cholesterol
- Carotid or other artery disease
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib)
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Certain blood disorders, such as sickle cell
- Prior “mini strokes” or transient ischemic attacks (TIA)
To learn more about the comprehensive stroke services at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, visit TMH.ORG/Stroke.