DALLAS — Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 130,000 Americans each year. In fact, every four minutes someone in America dies from the condition, while someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds. But a new study finds that many Americans may have suffered a warning stroke, while hardly any did anything about it.
A new survey from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association found that 33 percent of Americans experienced a symptom indicative of a warning or “mini stroke,” also known as a “transient ischemic attack,” or TIA. People who suffer a TIA are significantly more likely to experience an actual stroke within 90 days.
About 2,000 people nationwide were surveyed as part of the ASA’s “Together to End Stroke” warning signs campaign.
Perhaps even more alarming was the fact that only 3 percent of participants took the suggested action of calling for emergency help, even if the symptoms dissipate.
Symptoms of a stroke, according to the AHA, include” “sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or sudden severe headache with no known cause.”
The most commonly reported symptom in the survey was sudden headache (20 percent), followed by sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination (14 percent).
“Ignoring any stroke sign could be a deadly mistake,” says Dr. Mitch Elkind, chair of the American Stroke Association, in a press release. “Only a formal medical diagnosis with brain imaging can determine whether you’re having a TIA or a stroke. If you or someone you know experiences a stroke warning sign that comes on suddenly — whether it goes away or not —call 911 right away to improve chances of an accurate diagnosis, treatment and recovery.”
Symptoms of a TIA typically last several minutes, but can persist for up to 24 hours. Fifty-five percent of the participants in the survey indicated they would call 911 first if they were under the impression that they or someone else was suffering TIA symptoms — yet just 3 percent did.
“Officially, about five million Americans, or 2.3 percent, have had a self-reported, physician-diagnosed TIA, but as this survey suggests, we suspect the true prevalence is higher because many people who experience symptoms consistent with a TIA fail to report it,” adds Elkind.
Perhaps playing a role in the lack of action is the fact that more than three-quarters of respondents (77 percent) hadn’t heard of TIA before.
When it comes to symptoms, officials suggest remembering the “FAST” acronym as a reminder of what to look for and what to do. “F” stands for face drooping; “A” stands for arm weakness; “S” stands for speech difficulty; and “T” stands for time to call 911.