We talk a lot about politics here, we debate Constitutional matters and generally post opinions and positions that we feel strongly about. Sometimes we even have a little fun with satire and post some sexy (and sometime nekkid) pictures (mostly it is just me that does that) but today, I wanted to take a moment to focus on something a little more personal and close to home for me. Something that I also feel strongly about, a matter of personal health as it were.
That would be strokes – their recognition, treatment and prevention.
Prior to having a stroke at age 49, I have to admit that I didn’t think much about my vulnerability. As I have posted here on TRNL, I thought that I had no warning signs – but recent UK research may have proven me wrong. They have found a statistical tie to two more warning signs:
- Temporary loss of vision – even for an instant, and
- Loss of leg strength.
Wish I had recognized these two because I had both two days prior to the event. Now that I think back, I had flashes of blurred vision at work the same day that I felt weak during my workout at the gym. The very reason that I cut my workout short is that I couldn’t complete my 3 sets of 12 leg presses at the 525 pound level like the night before. My legs were very weak.
I was very lucky. I had an ischemic stroke – a blood clot in my brain rather than a hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding in the brain, which is far worse. What is even luckier is that it was manageable even though, being the dumbass that I am, I allowed it to be misdiagnosed and delayed treatment for several days. I should have been more insistent in the ER on my first trip there that something was really wrong – but I just didn’t want to admit it. I honestly thought that, as a former jock, that I could just ” rub a little dirt on in and walk it off” as my high school football coach used to say (that was his answer to every injury that didn’t include a jagged, protruding bone).
Part of it was that neither my wife or I knew the warning signs. Ignorance can truly kill.
It seems that strokes are occurring in younger and younger people and doing more and more damage. I don’t know if it is our stress levels, your unhealthy and sometimes sedentary lifestyles or what. I pretty much always thought of stroke as a danger for those in the later stages of life and not always the best health – an older person’s risk – but that’s simply not true.
Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and 1 out of every 4 strokes occurs in victims under the age of 65.
Thankfully, I’m walking around as evidence that it can happen to anybody…not thankful for the stroke, of course, its the “walking around” part that is pretty cool.
UK researchers have identified two more signs that may indicate someone is having a stroke.
Many people will have seen or heard of the stroke ‘FAST’ campaign run by the NHS, which asks people to remember three stroke warning signs – facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems.
However, experts at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust want to raise awareness that leg weakness and loss of vision are also strong indicators that you may be having a stroke.
A survey of 1,300 people across Leicestershire found that while most had heard of stroke and FAST symptoms, only 56 per cent thought that leg weakness could indicate stroke, while 44 % considered loss of vision to be a warning sign.
Professor Ross Naylor said: “The FAST campaign was very successful, but it’s important that people know leg weakness and loss of vision are also signs to look out for.
“It’s my fear are that many people may not be aware that anyone experiencing one or both of these additional signs, on their own or with one of the already recognized symptoms may be an indicator that they or a loved one is having a stroke and should also seek urgent medical advice.
“It’s really important that people are aware of all five of the signs and they shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that they must be having all five of them at the same time to be experiencing a stroke.
“You might be having a stroke and only suffering one of the five symptoms, however it’s more likely that you will experience one or two signs at the same time.”
A stroke is caused when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or cut off, either by a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). About eight out of 10 strokes are caused by blood clots.
Each year around 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK, and over 50,000 die from one. Stroke is also the biggest cause of severe disability.
Professor Naylor said: “Whilst the public appear aware of FAST and the three symptoms it highlights, we’ll be working to raise awareness with the public, health professionals and health services locally and nationally to make sure that those people showing any of these five signs get the medical assistance they need promptly.”
Stroke warning signs (FAST signs)
Face: facial weakness – can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
Arm: does it show weakness? – can the person raise both arms?
Speech: problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
Time: time to call 999 (or 911 in the good ole US of A)
Here are a few stats from the Internet Stroke Center:
- Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. More than 140,000 people die each year from stroke in the United States.
- Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.
- Each year, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke. About 600,000 of these are first attacks, and 185,000 are recurrent attacks.
- Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55.
- Strokes can and do occur at ANY age. Nearly one fourth of strokes occur in people under the age of 65.
- Stroke death rates are higher for African-Americans than for whites, even at younger ages.
- On average, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.
- Stroke accounted for about one of every 17 deaths in the United States in 2006. Stroke mortality for 2005 was 137,000.
- From 1995–2005, the stroke death rate fell ~30 percent and the actual number of stroke deaths declined ~14 percent.
- The risk of ischemic stroke in current smokers is about double that of nonsmokers after adjustment for other risk factors.
- Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an independent risk factor for stroke, increasing risk about five-fold.
- High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke.
I do a much better job of listening to my body now. There is a fine line between being appropriately cautious and being a WebMD self-diagnosing addict but don’t be afraid to seek treatment if you are concerned.
You can find more information at the website of the American Stroke Association.
Don’t be a dumbass like I was – it might save your life or that of someone you love.