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Know the Warning Signs of Stroke
Date:5/26/2008

Despite symptoms, many Americans fail to seek lifesaving treatment

MONDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- What would you do if you suddenly became dizzy and had trouble seeing? Watch and wait? Call 911?

Most Americans don't act on warning signs of stroke, including sudden dizziness or loss of balance or coordination and loss of vision in one or both eyes. Yet experts say early treatment could avoid devastating consequences, including death and disability.

A study presented at a recent American Stroke Association meeting found more than half of people experiencing stroke symptoms don't seek treatment.

"What it really tells us is that whether or not it was stroke, they should have gotten it checked out, because it could have been a stroke," said study lead author Virginia J. Howard, an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. "And when in doubt," she added, "they should talk to their doctor or seek some guidance -- even if they just talk to their doctor over the telephone."

Howard's research team examined data from a large, ongoing study involving white and black U.S. adults aged 45 and older. By the end of the study, some 30,000 people will have been interviewed and had blood work, an electrocardiogram and a medical evaluation. It's all part of a sweeping effort to understand why blacks and people who live in the southeastern part of the United States -- a region known as the "Stroke Belt" -- suffer higher-than-average rates of death from stroke than whites and people in other regions of the country.

Stroke is the nation's third leading killer, claiming the lives of more than 150,000 Americans each year. About 700,000 people have a new or recurrent stroke each year, the American Stroke Association reports.

Eighty percent of strokes are caused by a clot that obstructs blood flow to the brain -- a so-called ischemic stroke. Another type, hemorrhagic stroke, can occur when a
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