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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

Recognizing the signs of stroke can speed recovery

Hernando Today Correspondent


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On a cool March morning, Bob woke up with a pulsing pain behind his left eye and partially blurred vision. Assuming he had a migraine headache, he got out of bed, took some Advil and tried to relax until the pain subsided.

A few hours later he was admitted to the emergency room at Bayfront Health Brooksville. He was having a mild stroke.

Bob now wears an eye patch and doesn’t know if his vision will return. But he knows how lucky he is. Failing to seek treatment for stroke symptoms as soon as possible can be extremely damaging to the brain. It also can be deadly.

As many as 795,000 Americans have new or recurrent strokes each year, according to the National Stroke Association. That number equates to a stroke occurring every 40 seconds. It is the fourth leading cause of death, killing more than 137,000 people each year.

As a designated primary stroke center, Bayfront Health employees want people to understand what strokes are and to recognize the symptoms. They also stress the urgency of getting a stroke victim to an emergency room immediately.

When a stroke occurs, one or more arteries carrying blood to the brain either is blocked or bursts, depriving the brain of oxygen. The affected part of the brain where the stroke occurs, in effect, dies. And the longer the victim waits to receive treatment, the more potential for damage.

The three types of stroke are ischemic (clot), hemorrhagic and transient ischemic attack (TIA).

In an ischemic stroke, there is an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Ischemic strokes account for 87 percent of strokes.

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures, like an aneurysm or an arteriovenous malformation. The most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke is uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is caused by a temporary clot.

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While the brain cannot repair itself, Larry Faulkner, director of emergency development at Bayfront Health Brooksville, said, it can compensate for cells lost after a stroke. And the sooner the victim receives medical attention and the stroke is stopped, the less damage is done.

Rehabilitation then is used to relearn lost function by utilizing a different area of the brain that is healthy, he said.

According to the American Stroke Association, 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Risk factors include:

♦ High blood pressure

♦ Smoking

♦ High cholesterol

♦ Excessive weight

♦ Unhealthy lifestyle — lacking a healthy diet and exercise

Stroke is not age discriminatory. It can hit at any age if the risk factors are present.

Because high blood pressure is considered the leading risk factor for stroke, everyone should take advantage of free blood pressure screenings, said Susan Frimmel, Bayfront Health’s director of marketing. The Enrichment Centers at both hospitals offer free screenings each week.

Bayfront Health Brooksville is a Designated Primary Stroke Center by the Agency for Health Care Administration, said Frimmel.

Both Faulkner and Frimmel agreed that being prepared for any emergency makes good sense. Knowing Bayfront Health is a designated stroke and certified chest pain center is important for planning in case the unthinkable happens.

In addition, Bayfront Health has formed an alliance with UF Health in Gainesville, giving the Hernando County hospital immediate access to specialty physicians, should surgery to remove a clot be needed.

It is important for people to recognize symptoms of stroke — not just for their own health but for others, said Frimmel. She relayed a story she was told once about a stroke victim who knew she was having a stroke but was unable to tell her coworkers. “They had no idea what was wrong,” Frimmel said.

The victim eventually managed to write the words “call 911” and received the treatment she needed.

“She knew she was having a stroke,” said Frimmel, “but couldn’t tell anyone. That story stays with me because it shows how important it is to recognize the signs.”

For more information on stroke or Bayfront Health Brooksville and Spring Hill, go to their website at

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