Monday, February 20, 2012
Online Communications and
Social Media Coordinator
Please Note: The content found
on this Blog is for informational
purposes only. It should not be
a substitute for professional
medical advice, diagnosis, or
treatment. If you have any
questions regarding a personal
medical condition, you should
always ask your physician.
Never ignore medical advice or
postpone care due to something
you have read on our site.
All Blog posts are reviewed and
approved by the physician cited
in the article, as well as by
Steven J. Davidson, MD, Chief
Medical Informatics Officer
Recently, a lot of news was made over the stroke of Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois. He was 52 years old, which brought light to the fact that people under the age of 65 can suffer a stroke. For me, though, this didn’t come as a huge shock. I know all too well that strokes can occur regardless of age. A few years ago, one of my very good friends from high school had a stroke – she was only 18 years old.
“Stroke can happen at any age,” says Dr. Steven Rudolph, Director of the Jaffe Stroke Center at Maimonides. “You just have to know the signs.” There are two major types of stroke – ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. This clot can happen in the brain itself, or the clot can form in a different part of the body and travel up to the brain. It can also occur in already narrow arteries due to the collection of fat, cholesterol or other composites on the artery walls. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs if a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing internal bleeding within the brain.
While the cause of stroke in elderly patients is often attributed to high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat, younger patients may have additional risk factors, such as taking birth control pills, congenital heart problems, pregnancy and taking certain medications. “Unfortunately, stroke can often be misdiagnosed in younger populations, and younger adults may be less likely than seniors to recognize the symptoms,” Dr. Rudolph told me.
If someone exhibits stroke symptoms, they need immediate emergency care, regardless of the cause of the type of stroke or the age of the patient. “Stroke therapy is highly time-dependent and needs to be delivered rapidly,” explained Dr. Rudolph. Once a physician diagnoses a patient with a stroke, they may be prescribed t-PA, a powerful clot dissolving medication, which must be delivered within 3 hours of when a patient first exhibits symptoms. “Everyone should understand the importance of knowing what to do if you or someone you’re with is having a stroke,” emphasizes Dr. Rudolph. “Do not call a doctor. Instead, call 9-1-1 and ask to go to the nearest stroke center by ambulance. Time is the most important factor in treating a stroke.”
My friend didn’t have heart problems, she wasn’t overweight, she didn’t smoke – but she was taking oral birth control. Unfortunately, her care was delayed because her friends and family waited to take her to the hospital. Once at the ER, it took several hours for her to be diagnosed. The stroke damaged her speech and motor functions, but, through rehabilitation and therapy, she’s almost fully recovered. You can read more about her story covered by her university’s newspaper, here.
|Warning Signs of Stroke
Stroke symptoms are the same regardless of age and have a sudden onset. Here’s what you need to look out for:
- Weakness or numbness on one side
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Trouble walking
- A sudden severe headache