Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the US. Some stroke risk factors can be changed while others are hereditary. Know how to spot the signs of a stroke. WVU Medicine neurologist Matthew Smith, MD, discusses stroke awareness.

What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen to the brain is blocked by a clot or bursts. If deprived of oxygen for even a short period of time, the brain nerve cells will start to die. When brain cells die, the body parts and functions they control become impaired or destroyed. This can cause paralysis, speech or sensory problems, memory and reasoning deficits, coma, and death.

Dr. Matthew Smith,
Director, Stroke Center

What are the signs of a stroke?
Don’t ignore the signs of stroke or question if the symptoms are real. Every second counts, and immediate medical attention is needed to restore blood and oxygen to the brain.

Use FAST to help you spot the signs of a stroke:

  • Face drooping or numbness on one side.
  • Arm weakness with inability to raise both arms overhead.
  • Speech slurring or inability to repeat a simple sentence.
  • Time to call 911.

Other signs of a stroke may include weakness on one side of the body, unusual and severe headache, vision loss, numbness and tingling, or unsteadiness when walking.

What stroke treatment does WVU Medicine offer?
Patients entering the hospital with stroke symptoms are rapidly assessed with a CT scan to help determine the best treatment method. A drug called tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator, is used to dissolve blood clots and restore blood flow to the brain. To be effective, tPA must be given within three hours from the start of symptoms. In select patients, tPA can be given up to 4.5 hours after stroke. We can also treat clots in large vessels with endovascular therapy, the use of catheters and devices to remove clots with radiology.

How can a stroke be prevented?
Eighty percent of all strokes are preventable. Do your best to lead a healthier lifestyle with plenty of exercise and a nutritious diet, and manage your blood pressure and blood sugar. If you have an irregular heartbeat, get it treated as it can cause clots to form in the heart. Quit smoking if you’re a smoker.

Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE