With approximately 795,000 deaths a year attributed to it, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly 75 percent of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65, and the risk of having a stroke doubles each decade after age 55.
There are two kinds of stroke. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot or otherwise blocked vessel in the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain. Both are critical medical emergencies where every minute counts. The longer blood flow is cut off to an area of the brain, the greater the damage. The time period for treatment often referred to by emergency room doctors as “the golden window of opportunity” is three hours. Being at the hospital within 60 minutes of having the first symptoms to be evaluated greatly improves the chances of a positive outcome.
A stroke injures the brain, at times rendering the victim unable to realize he or she is having one. It’s often another person who understands what’s going on and seeks help. The sometimes solitary lifestyle of a truck driver makes it even more important for them to seek help if they think something is wrong.
Recognizing what to look for enables people to act fast. Symptoms tend to be of sudden onset – they happen quickly and aren’t something that lingers, like a backache. If you experience unusual numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body), trouble seeing in one or both eyes, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination or a severe headache with no known cause, seek immediate medical attention.
Don’t try to drive yourself to the hospital — pull over and call 911.