A stroke is a vascular event that causes brain damage, and says Justin Bell with the American Heart Association, can become worse with each passing second: "It can either be a blood clot or a blood hemorrhage and when it shows up, you have a very time-sensitive window to try to take care of it. So, it's important that you act quickly."
Because stroke is the third leading cause of death in Utah, the state has developed the Utah Stroke System -- a network of hospitals that are "stroke receiving facilities," so patients can be diagnosed and treated quickly.
Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, tobacco use, high cholesterol, and obesity. But genetics also play a role. Writer Mike Medberry says he had none of those health problems when he was hiking in the Idaho backcountry with friends and suffered a stroke at age 44, but his father had a stroke at 54.
"When you have a stroke, your brain swells up -- that creates more damage than a lot of the impacts of the actual stroke. And they can go away when the brain shrinks down. So, I couldn't speak. I couldn't really think. I couldn't walk for about a week. And then, it began to get better."
Medberry has written a book about the stroke and his recovery, just out this week. He'll be making some stops in Utah to read his book this winter.
The World Stroke Organization offers the following warning signs of a stroke:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause