Four months ago, 50-year-old Janice Brown came to the emergency department at WakeMed when she recognized the symptoms of a stroke.
"I felt a little numbness in my right arm and leg, and it kept on getting heavier and heavier like I had just a weight that I had to tote," she said.
With a stroke, a blood clot or a bleeding vessel starves a part of the brain. The symptoms may vary, but they could include partial paralysis in the face or limbs, a loss of vision, dizziness, trouble speaking and there's no warning.
"That's the hallmark of a stroke-like event is the suddenness of it," said Dr. Keith Hall Jr., a neurologist of WakeMed.
Hall said not everyone knows what is happening when a stroke hits, especially those who have a trans ischemic attack, or ministroke like Brown did.
"Trans ischemic attack, or TIA, is like a stroke symptom that comes and then may last minutes or hours and then goes," Hall said.
However, it could be a warning that a major stroke is on the way -- that's why calling 911 for a ride to an emergency room is so important.
New national guidelines are helping emergency medical service crews and hospitals improve their response to stroke and deliver potentially life-saving treatment.
"We're ready, willing and able to treat folks, but the key is for them to come promptly," Hall said.
Brown got the treatment she needed. Now she's on medication, eating a healthier diet and exercising more. She has advice for others who think they are having a stroke.
"Don't wait. Just come to the hospital," she said.
Researchers said they believe those at greatest risk for a stroke include: African-Americans, those with a family history of heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and those who are overweight. Diabetics and the elderly are also at increased risk.
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