Understanding the signs of a stroke, and what you can do to help
Newswise — The luck of the Irish didn’t always apply to the Finneran family. At the age of 19, Pennsylvania Medical Society member and Reading area cardiologist William Finneran, III, MD, FACC, nearly lost his father to a debilitating stroke. His dad, a successful New York City attorney, was only 49 years old. Several years earlier, his father’s older brother, also an attorney, had suffered a stroke at age 45.
“My dad had a high stress job as a partner in a large law firm. He was overweight, smoked, and never exercised. Something was bound to happen,” recalls Dr. Finneran. And it did. One evening, while working on his taxes, the elder Finneran started talking to his wife and wasn’t making sense. “I remember my mother saying to him ‘Why are you speaking Latin to me?’”
His dad was exhibiting aphasia, a disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language. He had suffered a brain bleed and would spend the next several months learning how to speak again. Because he never fully regained his ability to read, write, or speak, he retired at the age of 53.
“What happened in my family prompted me to become a doctor. It also made me realize that I’d better maintain an active lifestyle,” adds Dr. Finneran.
According to the American Heart Association, someone in America has a stroke every 40 seconds . Strokes are the third leading cause of death in Pennsylvania.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen to the brain either bursts or becomes blocked by a clot. When part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, it begins to die. Addressing the risk factors associated with strokes can help prevent their often devastating consequences.
Dr. Finneran advises patients to “know your numbers.” Pay attention to your blood pressure, waist size, BMI (Body Mass Index), and your cholesterol. Keep those numbers in the healthy range through regular exercise, a healthy diet, and not smoking to minimize your risk of a stroke.
The Institute for Good Medicine at the Pennsylvania Medical Society urges patients to be aware of these typical stroke symptoms:
1. Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes2. Weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including the face3. Difficulty speaking4. Disorientation, confusion, or memory loss5. Dizziness, loss of balance, or loss of coordination6. Severe headache that comes on suddenly with no apparent cause
If you think someone is having a stroke, ask them to perform three simple actions:
1. Ask the person to smile2. Ask the person to raise both arms above his or her head3. Ask the person to speak a simple sentence
If the person has any problems completing these steps, call 911 immediately and describe these symptoms.
The patient-doctor relationship has been the priority of the Pennsylvania Medical Society since its founding in 1848. While there are many issues being debated about health system reform, the physician members will continue to focus on better health for all Pennsylvanians. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Medical Society, visit the web site at www.pamedsoc.org.