Time is everything for a patient who’s experiencing a stroke, but people younger than 45 are more likely to be unaware of the symptoms or even to delay going to the hospital — instead waiting to see whether their symptoms improve, according to a recent survey.
Findings from the survey, conducted by researchers with Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, are reported in a HealthDay article written by author Robert Preidt.
Researchers say ideally, people with an ischemic stroke should receive medical care within three hours to give them the best chance of restoring blood flow to the brain and minimizing or reversing stroke damage, Preidt wrote. Treatment with clot-busting medications must begin during the three-hour window for best results.
“Timely treatment for stroke is probably more important than for almost any other medical problem there is,” David Liebeskind, MD, professor of neurology, director of Outpatient Stroke and Neurovascular Programs and director of the Neurovascular Imaging Research Core at the medical center, said in the article. “There is a very limited window in which to start treatment because the brain is very sensitive to a lack of blood flow or to bleeding, and the longer patients wait, the more devastating the consequences.”
For the survey, researchers asked more than 1,000 people nationwide what they would be likely to do within the first three hours of experiencing weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking or difficulty seeing. Among those younger than 45, only about 1 out of 3 said they would be very likely to go to the hospital. And 73% said they would likely wait to see whether their symptoms improved.
The new findings show “a real problem,” Liebeskind said in the article. “We need to educate younger people about the symptoms of stroke and convince them of the urgency of the situation, because the numbers are going up.”
Since the mid-1990s, the number of adults ages 18-45 discharged from U.S. hospitals after suffering a stroke has jumped as much as 53%, according to a study published in the September 2013 issue of Neurology. CDC statistics show more than 795,000 people suffer a stroke in the U.S. each year.
“Believe it or not, it’s on the order of minutes or hours when somebody has to seek medical attention,” Liebeskind said in the article. “There simply is no time to wait.”
To recognize the signs of stroke and know what to do, the study authors suggested people memorize the acronym FAST, which stands for: Face drooping; Arm weakness; Speech difficulty; Time to call 911, according to the article.
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