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Monday, February 03, 2014 - You can save a life ─ Recognize the common signs of stroke

You can save a life ─ Recognize the common signs of stroke

By Yin Lin Nien, M.D.

While significant inroads have been made in the prevention and treatment of strokes, the after-effects can still be debilitating or irreversible. Stroke is the fourth- leading cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 Americans each year. The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to recognize the physical symptoms of a stroke, which I have highlighted below.

Five Critical Stroke Symptoms

Keep in mind, these symptoms may come on suddenly, without warning:

• Weakness or numbness in the face, arm, leg (or both) on one side

• Trouble speaking, understanding or slurred speech

• Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes

• Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

• Severe and unusual headache

The importance of urgent medical care

The type of stroke a person experiences determines the immediate treatment necessary. The most common type of stroke is ischemic stroke. This occurs when a blood clot travels from somewhere in the body to the brain and blocks an artery supplying blood to a specific part of the brain.

Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is the FDA-approved, first-line treatment, however, it must be administered by injection within four and a half hours from the onset of the symptoms. Again, this is why immediate medical care is urgent. Patients who receive tPA during the first 4.5 hours of an acute stroke have a significantly higher probability of a better neurological outcome in the long term. Each year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. Common risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking, among others.

I strongly encourage all of my patients to subscribe to a healthy lifestyle by eating right, staying active, sleeping well and finding ways to offset stress. Doing so can absolutely help to extend your life and minimize many life-threatening medical conditions, including stroke. In the event you ever experience stroke symptoms ─ do not wait for symptoms to subside ─ dial 911 for immediate medical assessment and treatment.

Award-winning stroke treatment and rehabilitation

CentraState Medical Center’s Primary Stroke Center includes an on-site, 24/7 specialty-trained "Stroke Alert" response team to assess patients in the Emergency Department and initiate an immediate treatment protocol. The center has earned licensed certification from The Joint Commission and New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Achievement Award for three consecutive years. This award recognizes the hospital’s ongoing commitment and success in implementing the highest quality care for stroke patients, according to evidence-based guidelines. For more information about CentraState's Stroke Center, call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).

Dr. Nien is board-certified in neurology and serves as medical director of the Stroke Center at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold. He can be reached at 732-462-1971.