St. Lawrence Health gives tips to recognize stroke versus heart attack
POTSDAM – There is often some confusion between a heart attack and stroke. While a heart attack is truly associated with the heart, a stroke is associated with the brain; what may be referred to as a brain attack.May is Stroke Awareness Month, and St. Lawrence Health Clinical Stroke Coordinator Ava Hudson, NP, explained thrombosis of a coronary artery is a heart attack, and thrombosis of a head or neck artery is a brain attack. She said 85-87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes (thrombosis in the brain) and 13-15% are bleeding or hemorrhage of a brain vessel.
“Stroke onset varies widely among ethnicities and for males and females. The average age for stroke onset for Americans is 71.4 years for males, and 76.9 years for females. About 38% of all strokes occur in individuals 65 years or younger, and 62% for those over 65. Keep in mind that African Americans, Hispanic American, and Native Americans may be affected at an even younger age,” Hudson said.
While strokes are not hereditary, there are risk factors that may be genetic, such as high cholesterol, a tendency toward type 2 diabetes, or hypertension. Non-familial factors include atrial fibrillation, obesity, and smoking.
If you think you or someone is having a stroke, think of the term BE-FAST to assess the symptoms.
B - Balance problems, weakness or unsteady walking, dizziness
E - (Eye) problems with vision, double vision, blindness, partial vision
F - Facial drooping
A - Arm or leg weakness, numbness, tingling
S - Speech problems, cannot speak, confusion, difficulty finding words
T - Time to call EMS (Emergency Medical Service)
“Time truly is of the essence as a stroke is treatable, but the treatment window for seeking medical care is very narrow. We are looking at 3.5 to 4.5 hours from the onset of stroke symptoms for an ischemic stroke. With this type of stroke, the goal is to break up the clot and restore blood flow to the affected area of the brain. The sooner the clot is broken up, the less brain damage occurs and the better the individual’s chance is for a full recovery,” Ms. Hudson said.
“Stroke treatment for hemorrhagic stroke is centered on stopping the bleeding and fixing the bleeding vessel. The sooner we can stop bleeding in the brain or repair a vessel, the less damage there will be to brain tissue, and having lasting complications,” she added.
Anyone who has had a stroke should be aware that 23% of all stroke victims will have a second one. The main factor in preventing this from happening again is controlling risk factors.
“It is important to know your stroke risk factors,” Hudson said. “Talk with your primary care provider to determine and discuss your risk factors, and address them with life-style modifications as suggested by your provider.”
To learn more about strokes or Neurological services available through St. Lawrence Health, visit https://www.stlawrencehealthsystem.org/Services/Neurology.