Is it possible to have a small stroke and not even realize it?
Yes, according to new research that found about 35 percent of Americans experience symptoms of a warning stroke. Yet only about 3 percent get immediate medical attention.
Most adults who had at least one sign of a “mini” stroke — a temporary blockage also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA) — waited or rested until symptoms had faded instead of calling 911 right away, according to the research from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA).
“Ignoring any stroke sign could be a deadly mistake,” said ASA chair Dr. Mitch Elkind, in a news release from the organization.
“Only a formal medical diagnosis with brain imaging can determine whether you’re having a TIA or a stroke. If you or someone you know experiences a stroke warning sign that comes on suddenly — whether it goes away or not — call 911 right away to improve chances of an accurate diagnosis, treatment and recovery,” he said.
An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot blocks blood flow to the brain. People who experience this type of stroke may be treated immediately with a special clot-busting drug. A device called a stent retriever may also be used to remove the clot and help prevent long-term disability.
A TIA precedes about 15 percent of strokes. People who have a TIA are at greater risk for a stroke within three months, the experts said.
The American Stroke Association uses the acronym F.A.S.T. to help people remember the most common stroke signs:
Other sudden warnings signs of stroke include:
The survey of more than 2,000 adults found that those who suddenly experienced trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or numbness or weakness in their face or a limb, were most likely to call 911. The most common symptom was a sudden, severe headache. About 1 in 5 people experienced this symptom, according to the study.
The researchers noted that 77 percent of those polled were not familiar with a TIA. More than half of the participants said they would dial 911 if they thought they or someone else had symptoms of a TIA but only 3 percent of those who did have these warning signs actually made the call.
People who’ve had a stroke or TIA must work with their doctor to make lifestyle adjustments and follow a treatment regimen to help prevent another event, the researchers said.
“Officially, about 5 million Americans, or 2.3 percent, have had a self-reported, physician-diagnosed TIA,” said Elkind. “But as this survey suggests, we suspect the true prevalence is higher because many people who experience symptoms consistent with a TIA fail to report it.”
SOURCE: American Stroke Association, news release, May 1, 2017
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