Knowing the signs of a stroke could save your life


During a stroke, seconds count. 

The sooner a stroke victim gets to a hospital emergency department, the better the patient’s chances of avoiding death or disability. Unfortunately, even though many strokes have clear warning signs, many stroke victims don’t realize what is happening until it’s too late. “A stroke is essentially the equivalent of a heart attack involving the brain,” said Dr. Larry Breeding, a cardiologist with Mountain States Medical Group Cardiology. “There is an interruption of blood flow into one of the major arteries in the brain, and a certain amount of brain tissue dies as a result of that loss of blood.”

A stroke victim can suffer long-term brain function impairment or even death. A stroke can affect any part of the brain and may impair speech, vision, movement or any other brain function. There are two different types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic stroke is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain due to blockage in a blood vessel; hemorrhagic stroke happens when a vessel ruptures, causing accumulation of blood inside the skull.

The warning signs of stroke include: 
  • 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; or
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

Strokes usually do not cause pain other than a headache, which is more common with hemorrhagic strokes.

Many of these warning signs for stroke are dismissed, which can lead to a more serious injury. It is those very critical minutes after the onset of symptoms that can determine the outcome of the stroke. “Patients need to understand that this is their warning,” Breeding said. “This may be a harbinger that a stroke is in their near future and they need to seek immediate medical attention.”

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, do not hesitate. Call 911 immediately. 

About Mountain States Health Alliance
Mountain States Health Alliance, a not-for-profit health care organization based in Johnson City, Tenn., operates a family of hospitals serving a 29-county, four-state region (Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Southeastern Kentucky and Western North Carolina). MSHA offers a large tertiary hospital, several community hospitals, two critical access hospitals, rehabilitation, a children’s hospital, a behavioral health hospital, home care and hospice services as well as a comprehensive medical management corporation. Its 13,500 team members, associated physicians and volunteers are committed to its mission of bringing loving care to health care. For more information,

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