"Signs of stroke are often ignored," says Anne Jacobs, PhD, PT, the executive director of the Peninsula Stroke Association
, an organization that offers education about stroke prevention, as well as support and for stroke survivors and caregivers."Our aim is that everyone should recognize stroke as readily as they recognize heart attack."Stroke symptoms include sudden numbness, weakness or tingling, especially on one side of the body, severe headache, blurred vision, loss of balance or dizziness, and unusual confusion or trouble speaking.A recent study from the American Heart Association
found that barely half the respondents could recognize even one symptom.By contrast, 80 percent knew the signals of heart attack.
Patients, family or colleagues can misinterpret warning signs, which often mimic other conditions such as migraine, eye trouble, muscle strain, or stress.
One the other hand, even if symptoms last for a very short time, it is still important not to ignore them, says Jacobs
, as they could indicate a transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke.According to the ASA
, often the patient seems normal by the time he
is seen by the physician.But recent research shows that a full-blown stroke follows more than 12 percent of TIAs within a year, sometimes much sooner.
Though risks increase with age, stroke can happen to healthy people at any age.The ASA
is extending the messages of prevention and fast action to local companies, while the PSA
regularly holds talks at community and senior centers.Jacobs
would like to get the message through in schools, too.
"It could be a child or grandchild who recognizes the symptoms and calls 911," she
says."Not just the elderly are at risk.Stroke can happen at any age, and whatever the age, it profoundly impacts whole families."
Monthly PSA meetings at the Veterans Administration Hospital
in Palo Alto provide support for those recovering from stroke, their families and caregivers, as well as education on the latest research, ways to cope with immobility, aphasia, loss of work and social life.