One in three American adults may have had a warning stroke

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American Heart Association/American Stroke Association



About one in three American adults have experienced a symptom consistent with a warning or "mini" stroke, but almost none – only 3 percent – took the recommended action, according to a new survey from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA).

Thirty-five percent of respondents reported having experienced at least one sign of a warning stroke, called a transient ischemic attack or TIA. Those who did were more likely to wait, rest or take medicine than call 911, said the AHA/ASA, the nation's leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

May is National Stroke Month, and the AHA/ASA is working with Medical City Healthcare in North Texas to help spread awareness of the need to act fast at the onset of stroke symptoms.

"Ignoring any stroke sign could be a deadly mistake," said Parita Bhuva, MD, Interventional Neurologist with Medical City Healthcare's Texas Stroke Institute. "Only a formal medical evaluation by a trained professional along 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 — whether it goes away or not — call 911 right away to improve chances of an accurate diagnosis, treatment and recovery."

The difference between a TIA and a stroke is that the blockage is transient, or temporary. A TIA has the same symptoms, but usually lasts a few minutes and up to 24 hours. The American Stroke Association recommends calling for emergency help immediately, even if symptoms go away.

About 15 percent of strokes are preceded by a TIA. People who have a TIA are significantly more likely to have a stroke within 90 days.

To easily remember the most common stroke signs, the American Stroke Association recommends consumers learn the acronym F.A.S.T., which stands for:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 911.

Other stroke warning signs 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 survey was conducted as part of the American Stroke Association's Together to End Stroke™ warning signs campaign sponsored by Medtronic. Participants included 2,040 adults nationwide.

Additional survey findings:

  • Respondents who experienced trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg were most likely to call 911 (5 percent).
  • The most common symptom reported was sudden, severe headache with no known cause (20 percent). The second most common was sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination (14 percent).
  • 77 percent of respondents had not heard of transient ischemic attack or TIA.
  • 55 percent of respondents said they would call 911 first if they suspected themselves or someone else was experiencing symptoms of a TIA, but only 3 percent of people who reported having experienced a TIA-like symptom did.
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