You're making breakfast and all of the sudden your hand can't grip the spoon you're using to stir the oatmeal. Or you're having dinner with friends and all of the sudden you don't understand what they're saying — it's as if they're speaking another language. Or you may be standing waiting for a bus when one of your legs gives out suddenly.
In any of the above scenarios you could be experiencing a brain attack, or stroke. If so, you'll need to take immediate action by calling 911 or going to the nearest hospital emergency department.
"As we often say: Time is brain," says Vivien Lee, MD, a stroke neurologist at the Stroke Center at Rush. "The importance of quick action cannot be stressed enough," says Lee. "If you're having a brain attack, or stroke, time and brain tissue are your most precious commodities."
Many people may be too embarrassed to seek help, but as Shyam Prabhakaran, MD, a stroke neurologist at the Stroke Center at Rush explains: "We like to err on the side of caution. And, we're willing to take the time to investigate if there's any possibility that it may be a brain attack or other neurological problem, especially since the window of opportunity for providing certain therapies for a brain attack is limited. We want to provide those therapies as early as possible in the attempt to limit the brain injury and reduce long-term disability."
Knowing the Signs
Some of the common signs and symptoms of stroke are:
Sudden, unexplained numbness, especially on one side of the body
Sudden, unexplained weakness, especially on one side
Trouble with language (either speaking or understanding)
Sudden vision loss (in one or both eyes)
You may experience on or more of these symptoms and they may go away, but you still need to seek medical help and be evaluated. If it's not a brain attack it could have been a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is less serious than a stroke, but you'll still want to be evaluated. "People who have had a TIA have high risk of having a brain attack," says Prabhakaran. "It's similar to the idea of a tremor before an earthquake."
Knowing the Risks
You should be extra vigilant if you are 55 years old or older with the following risk factors:
Having high blood pressure (hypertension)
Having high cholesterol
Being a smoker or using tobacco products
Having heart or other vascular problems
"Our team offers standard as well as state-of-the-art care," says Prabhakaran. "We treat those patients who have had a brain attack or are at high risk for one, because of such things as narrowing of the arteries, aneurysms and other vascular disorders like arteriovenous malformations or AVMs. We provide leading-edge solutions for these issues that can vastly reduce your risk of experiencing a brain attack."
"Our multidisciplinary team and stroke-trained neurologists have so much to offer anyone who has had a stroke or who may be at risk for a stroke," says Candace Acevez, RN, the stroke program coordinator. "In addition to this expertise we also offer support groups and community education and outreach. Our goal is to take care of the whole person."
Find out more about brain attack on Wednesday, November 15, at 1:30 p.m. at the Searle Conference Center at Rush University Medical Center's Chicago campus.
Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)
Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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