Some people experience a "mini-stroke," called a transient ischemic attack, when blood flow to the brain is temporarily blocked, and these individuals are at greater risk of having a future stroke.
To explain the link between stroke symptoms and behavior, Howard's team asked study participants if they had experienced any stroke symptoms and, if so, whether they'd sought medical care.
Of those who reported symptoms but had no confirmed diagnosis of stroke or mini-stroke, more than half -- 51.4 percent -- did not seek medical care.
It isn't known how many of them actually experienced a stroke. Still, their failure to seek care is very worrisome, one stroke expert said, because tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a clot-busting drug given to people who've had ischemic stroke, is most effective when administered within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms.
"It has been estimated -- and figures from our center support this -- that if everyone with a stroke called 911 at the onset of symptoms and were taken to a hospital prepared to treat them, 50 percent of stroke patients would receive IV tPA, rather than the present national average of around 2 percent," noted Dr. James C. Grotta, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology at the University of Texas Medical School and director of the stroke program at Memorial Hermann Hospital, in Houston.
There are many reasons why possible stroke victims don't seek medical attention.
Often people simply don't recognize the symptoms, explained Dr. Dawn Kleindorfer, an assistant professor of neurology and stroke researcher at the University of Cincinnati. "It's not that they're afraid, they just don't recognize it as an emergency," she said.
The American Stroke Association teaches the public to watch for these warnings signs:
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