08:03am Thursday 12 December 2019

7 surprising stroke facts in honor of World Stroke Day from Loyola's international expert

1. Time is brain. During a stroke, 32,000 brain cells per second (1.9 million per minute) die. But if a patient receives timely treatment, the damage can be minimized. So it’s critically important to know the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. However . . .

2. One in three Americans can’t name even a single stroke warning sign. These warning signs include sudden:

  • Numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face
  • Confusion or trouble understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Severe headache with no known cause.

An easy way to remember signs and symptoms is FAST:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 9-1-1 if any of these symptoms are present

3. Strokes are surprisingly common in young people. And more young people are showing risk factors for such strokes. Between 532,000 and 852,000 people ages 18 to 44 in the United States have had a stroke. And between 1995-96 and 2007-08, U.S. hospital discharges for stroke among patients ages 15 to 44 increased by amounts ranging from 23 percent to 53 percent, depending on age and gender, according to a report, co-authored by Biller, in the journal Neurology.

4. Strokes are also common in presidents. Ten U.S. presidents likely suffered strokes, according to a study Biller and colleagues published in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases. Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower suffered strokes while in office, and Roosevelt’s stroke was fatal. Seven other presidents suffered apparent strokes after leaving office: John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

5. Sex did trigger a stroke. In the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases, Biller and colleagues described an unusual case of a woman who suffered a stroke during sexual intercourse. Doctors believe a small clot formed in one of the veins in her thigh, broke loose and traveled to the right atrium (upper right pumping chamber). Pressure changes in the heart, triggered by sexual intercourse, enabled the clot to travel, through a hole in her heart, from the right atrium to the left atrium. From there, the clot traveled up to the brain and triggered a stroke.

6. Worst possible stroke can be associated with “locked-in syndrome.” Among the most feared and devastating strokes are ones caused by blockages in the brain’s critical basilar artery system. When not fatal, basilar artery strokes can cause devastating deficits, including head-to-toe paralysis called “locked-in syndrome,” according to a review article in MedLink Neurology by Biller and colleagues.

A character in “The Count of Monte Cristo,” described as a “corpse with living eyes,” had what appears to be locked-in syndrome. More recently, the book and movie “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” describe a journalist with locked-in syndrome. He was mentally intact, but able to move only his left eyelid. He composed a moving memoir by picking out one letter at a time as the alphabet was slowly recited.

7. Neck manipulation may be associated with stroke. Treatments that involve neck manipulation may be associated with strokes, according to an American Heart Association Scientific Statement written by Biller and other leading stroke experts.

A small tear in a neck artery, called a cervical dissection, is among the most common causes of strokes in young and middle-aged adults. A dissection can lead to a blood clot that travels to the brain and triggers a stroke. Sudden movements that hyperextend or rotate the neck can cause a cervical dissection. Some maneuvers used by health practitioners also extend and rotate the neck.

“Although a cause-and-effect relationship between these therapies and cervical dissection has not been established and the risk is probably low, a dissection can result in serious neurological injury,” Biller said. “Patients should be informed of this association before undergoing neck manipulation.”

World Stroke Day was established by the World Stroke Organization in 2006 to help spread public awareness of the world’s high stroke risk and stroke prevalence. The theme of the 2014 World Stroke Day is women and stroke. Women have a higher stroke mortality rate than men.

Six in 10 stroke deaths occur in women, largely due to strokes occurring later in life in women, when strokes are more dangerous.

Biller is an internationally known expert on strokes. He is professor and chair of the Department of Neurology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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Jim Ritter
Media Relations
(708) 216-2445
Anne Dillon
Media Relations
(708) 216-8232


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