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Dr. Oluwatosin Thompson

May 23, 2019
Time is Brain: Why Getting to the Hospital Fast Can Make a Difference for Stroke Patients

Since May is stroke awareness month, Oluwatosin Thompson, MD, a neurologist at GBMC, shared important information about how to recognize and prevent strokes, the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, with WMAR2 anchor Christian Schaffer.

“If you suspect that you or a loved one may be having a stroke, don’t take an aspirin to see if it helps or try to sleep it off. Call 911 immediately and get to the emergency department,” advised Dr. Thompson. “In neurology we have a saying: ‘Time is brain.’ What this means is that the longer you go without treating a stroke, the more damage occurs to the brain and the less likely it becomes that you will be able to make a full recovery. That’s why getting to the hospital quickly is so important.”

Dr. Thompson explained the difference between the two main type of strokes — ischemic stroke, which is the most common type, and hemorrhagic stroke. In an ischemic stroke, a blood clot blocks one of the arteries that brings blood to the brain. The interruption of blood flow to the brain damages brain tissue. In a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel in the brain bursts and blood pools in the brain, damaging tissue. The part of the brain affected by the stroke determines what kinds of problems can result, such as issues with speech and swallowing, paralysis, and memory loss.

While there are treatments that can help limit the damage a stroke can cause, Dr. Thompson said that preventing strokes is the best plan. Factors that increase your risk of stroke include diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, and smoking, which increases the formation of plaques that block the arteries.

How do you know if you or a loved one is having a stroke? The most common signs are loss of sensation and/or strength in your face, arm, or leg, difficulty speaking, trouble understanding when someone else is speaking, and loss of vision. An easy way to remember this is the acronym FAST, which stands for:

Face droops or is numb.
Arm is weak or numb.
Speech is difficult or slurred.
Time to call 911.

“Stroke is very preventable,” added Dr. Thompson. “It’s all about working with your primary care physician to manage your risk factors and choosing a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, and not smoking.”
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