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Archive for January, 2014

Can You Recognise the Symptoms of a Mini Stroke?

Posted on: January 23rd, 2014 by Gemma


Doctors call it the ‘warning stroke’ – a terrifying episode that nonetheless gives people time to take action before a fatal emergency occurs.


Gary Kubiak is an athletic guy. Aged just 52, the Houston Texans head coach, a former player himself, is in pretty good shape.


And yet, at a major NFL game in November  – with millions watching live on TV – he suddenly dropped to his knees, held his head in his hands, then collapsed.


Kubiak had suffered a mini stroke – or ‘transient ischemic attack’ (TIA), to use its proper, medical name.


Sudden attack


What actually happened to the coach was that a tiny clot temporarily blocked the blood flow in part of his brain, starving it of oxygen.


Just as during a full stroke, he very likely experienced numbness, weakness, visual disturbances, speech problems or confusion. The key difference is that TIA episodes usually only last a few minutes.


And here’s the important bit: crucially, they don’t generally cause permanent brain damage or loss of motor function. Most people make a full recovery.


Warning sign


In short, a mini stroke is a warning: a big, blue-lights-flashing alert that someone is at serious risk. (A recent study found 10 to 15 per cent of TIA patients will go on to have a full stroke within a month.)


But it’s not all doom and gloom. Such a warning gives a patient a good chance to get some medical treatment that will hopefully prevent a future stroke from occurring.


It also helps if people know what to look for. Both a stroke and a TIA manifest the same initial symptoms, which anyone can easily recognise by using the simple FAST test.


F – Facial weakness. Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
– Arm weakness. Can the person raise both arms?
S – Speech disturbance. Can the person speak clearly or understand what you say?
T – Time to call 999.


‘Healthy’ victims


It’s especially important to recognise stroke symptoms because – unlike conditions such as heart disease, where there is often a causal relationship with factors such as lifestyle or weight – a mini stroke attacks indiscriminately. Lifestyle offers no clue.


Stood out there on the football field in front of scores of flashing cameras, there’s no way Gary Kubiak could have known he was seconds away from a medical emergency.


As one American doctor told CBS News: “It can certainly happen to people who otherwise appear to be completely healthy. That’s the irony of it.”