Strokes and TIA
Gary Kaplan, M.D.
More now than ever, there is greater awareness about TIA (transient ischemic attack) and stroke. This is for good reason. Unlike a regular stroke, TIA symptoms can resolve within a few minutes and last less than 24 hours. Physicians are now equipped to make a difference in outcome when a patient presents with symptoms suggestive of stroke. What are these symptoms? A few are listed below:
1. A sudden loss of vision
2. A new weakness or loss of sensation on one side of the body
3. Sudden change in speech
If you experience any of these symptoms or any other abrupt change in your ability to function, it’s time to get to an emergency room for prompt evaluation. This is as much of a medical emergency as having chest pain. If you are having a stroke, the quicker the evaluation by a stroke specialist, the more likely you will be able to receive a clot-busting medication if needed and save areas of the brain from being lost forever. We like to say: “Time is Brain”. Even stroke symptoms that last for only a few minutes should be evaluated in an emergency room promptly. These symptoms may represent a stroke threatening to happen and the appropriate diagnostic tests can only be obtained quickly in the hospital.
In the meantime, reduce your risk of stroke with regular medical examinations to ensure that your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are all under control. Too many people shrug off high blood pressure readings, claiming they must have ‘white coat syndrome’, when in fact they have hypertension. The lower your blood pressure is over a long period of time the less likely you are to have a TIA or stroke.
Lifestyle recommendations that can help reduce your risk for stroke are similar to those that promote heart health. A diet rich in vegetables and grains and low in animal fats is a good start. This along with moderate daily exercise can combine to keep you in the right weight zone for your height and frame and thereby decrease your risk for diabetes and high cholesterol. Avoiding excess alcohol can reduce your stroke risk, and even more important is avoiding smoking altogether.
After discharge from the hospital, see your physician to provide you with all the necessary follow-up examinations, imaging studies, treatments and lifestyle recommendations that are needed to reduce your risk of repeat stroke or TIA. You also may need rehabilitation.
So, when you think you are possibly having a stroke or TIA, please get yourself over to the nearest emergency room, as time is the most important element in decreasing the devastating effects of this disease.