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The "Know Stroke" Campaign

NINDS is conducting a public awareness campaign across the United States to educate people about stroke. The
full name of the program, "Know Stroke. Know the Signs. Act in Time." include the three most important points
about stroke—understanding stroke, knowing the warning signs, and acting quickly. There is also a Spanish language
version of the campaign for the U.S. Hispanic community.

1 Know Stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly interrupted or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into the spaces surrounding brain cells. Brain cells die when they no longer receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood, or when there is sudden bleeding into or around the brain.

There are two forms of stroke: an ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying the brain becomes blocked, and a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is bleeding into or around the brain.

2 Know the Signs

Because stroke injures the brain, you may not realize that you are having a stroke. To a bystander, someone having a stroke may just look unaware or confused. Stroke victims have the best chance if someone around them recognizes the symptoms and acts quickly.

  • What are the symptoms of a stroke?—The symptoms of stroke are distinctive because they happen quickly—thus the origin of the name "stroke."
    • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body)
    • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
    • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
    • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
    • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

What should a bystander do?—If you believe someone is having a stroke—if he or she suddenly loses the ability to speak, or move an arm or leg on one side, or experiences facial paralysis on one side—call 911 immediately.

3 Act in Time

Stroke is a medical emergency. Every minute counts when someone is having a stroke. The longer blood flow is cut off to the brain, the greater the damage. Immediate treatment can save people's lives and improve their chances for successful recovery.

  • Why is there a need to act fast?—Ischemic strokes, the most common type of stroke, can be treated with a drug called t-PA that dissolves blood clots obstructing blood flow to the brain. The window of opportunity to start treating stroke patients is three hours, but to be evaluated and receive treatment, patients need to get to the hospital within 60 minutes. Hemorrhagic strokes often continue to enlarge due to continued bleeding, which in some cases can be prevented by normalizing the clotting system. Sometimes the blood clots need to be removed emergently.
  • What is the benefit of treatment?—A five-year study by NINDS found that some stroke patients who received t-PA within three hours of the start of stroke symptoms were at least 30 percent more likely to recover with little or no disability after three months.
  • What can I do to prevent a stroke?—The best treatment for stroke is prevention. There are several risk factors that increase your chances of having a stroke:
    • High blood pressure
    • Heart disease
    • Smoking
    • Diabetes
    • High cholesterol
    • Sedentary lifestyle

If you smoke—quit. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol, getting them under control—and keeping them under control—will greatly reduce your chances of having a stroke.

Read More "Understanding Stroke" Articles
Understanding Stroke / Know Stroke / Two Kinds of Stroke / The "Know Stoke" Campaign / Kirk Douglas Interview — "My Stroke of Luck"

Summer 2007 Issue: Volume 2 Number 3 Page 7