I really enjoy watching Ted Talks, as you may have already noticed, and this is one of the most interesting ones I’ve ever seen. In this presentation, Jill Bolte Taylor describes her own experience of suffering from a stroke and takes the listener on a very informative and captivating journey as she describes how her brain functions quickly shut down, one by one.
Although she gave this talk in 2008, I only watched it earlier this month and coincidently also came across a very interesting piece of research on strokes in the past few days. Scientists at Imperial College in London have shown some preliminary study results, which would suggest that injecting neural stem cells into the brains of recent stroke victims may assist in long-term recovery prognosis. Scientists can’t yet pinpoint how these cells led to improvements or how the patients brains healed, however, continued research hopes to answer these questions. This step forward certainly does provide some hope for those who have suffered brain injury from a past stroke, especi.
Considering how prevalent strokes are, with more than 795,000 Americans suffering from one every year (CDC), this kind of work is crucial. While the world anxiously awaits further developments and considering the importance of quick treatment, it is important that the entire population is able to promptly identify early stroke symptoms. Would you recognize them?
Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?
Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared.
Details of other signs and symptoms can be found here but speed is key, there is an FDA approved clot destroying medication that can reduce long term disability if given with three hours of the first symptom.
Who is at risk?
Other Risk Factors
There are also a number of related illnesses and lifestyle factors that can increase stroke risk if left uncontrolled (full information here).
High Blood Pressure causes the heart to pump harder to move blood through the body. This can weaken blood vessels and damage major organs such as the brain.
Atrial Fibrillation (AF) raises stroke risk because it allows blood to pool in the heart. When blood pools, it tends to form clots, which can then be carried to the brain, causing a stroke.
High Cholesterol can clog arteries and cause a stroke or heart attack.
Diabetes is linked to several other health problems, which are also stroke risk factors.
Atherosclerosis can clog arteries and block the flow of blood to the brain or other parts of the body.
Alcohol Consumption has been linked to stroke in many studies
Tobacco Use damages blood vessel walls, speeds up the clogging of arteries, raises blood pressure and makes the heart work harder
Obesity and excess weight put a strain on the entire circulatory system. Obesity also makes people more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Cognitive Decline has also been recently identified as a risk factor for strokes. In one study, individuals with lower scores on tests, measuring attention, memory and other tests of mental function, were 61% more likely to have a stroke than those who performed well.