Understanding strokes could save your life

Healthy Reading

April 28, 2006|By MARY BETH REGAN | MARY BETH REGAN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Life After Stroke: Recovering Your Health and Preventing Another Stroke

By Joel Stein, M.D., Julie Silver, M.D., and Elizabeth Pegg Frates, M.D.

Johns Hopkins University Press/$18.95

Life After Stroke, by three prominent doctors - two are with Harvard Medical School - is clear, concise and a joy to read because it's easy to understand. More importantly, it could save your life.

Consider this: Someone has a stroke every 45 seconds in the United States, and someone dies of a stroke every three minutes. That doesn't have to be, according to the authors. Many strokes are reversible and treatable, if people seek medical attention quickly.

First, understand the types of strokes. In an ischemic stroke, a clot (usually in an artery) blocks blood flow to the brain. In a hemorrhagic stroke, a leak or burst in a vessel causes blood to spill into brain tissue. The symptoms for both: sudden weakness or paralysis, confusion and disorientation and sudden problems with speech or vision. If you notice these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Damage from an ischemic stroke can be reduced if patients receive a clot-busting drug, called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA. But the same drug could prove disastrous if given to a person with a hemorrhagic stroke because it likely will make bleeding worse.

The upshot: Make certain your hospital is equipped to respond to a stroke. For example, ask whether the hospital has a doctor on staff at all times who can read CT and MRI brain scans.

In the event that you or a family member suffers from a stroke, this book walks you through recovery and measures you can take to prevent a second stroke. It's not like kicking up your feet and reading a romance novel, but it's worthy of a read because what's at stake - your life - is worth the time.

Mary Beth Regan

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