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What does flying from New York to Miami and watching the movie Titanic have in common?  Both take about three hours.  That is also the window of time one has to get life-saving treatment following the onset of symptoms from an Ischemic stroke.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke.  Every 3 minutes and 14 seconds, someone dies of a stroke. Additionally, in those 65 and older, strokes are a leading cause of long-term disability.

There are two types of strokes, one is Ischemic and the other is Hemorrhagic (CDC).   Eighty seven percent of strokes are Ischemic which may allow patients to receive a medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) which can be administered via intravenous therapy (IV) and works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood flow. tPA should be given within three hours (and up to 4.5 hours in some cases).  A TIA or transient ischemic attack is often referred to as a “mini stroke” which is a warning sign for a future stroke but is a medical emergency.  A Hemorrhagic stroke is when there is bleeding in the brain.

It is imperative to identify the onset symptoms of a stroke and get medical treatment as soon as possible.  Common signs and symptoms are speech problems, sudden paralysis, muscular weakness or a tingling or pricking feeling, and incoordination on one side of the body.  However, other symptoms such as confusion, sudden severe headache, unexplained dizziness, change in vision, and inability to swallow can also present as a warning sign.

Think FAST:

Face- look for signs of drooping, ask the person to smile to determine if smile is uneven;
Arms- can both arms be raised;
Speech- are words slurred; and
Time- if any of the above are present, call 9-1-1 for immediate assistance.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a CT scan will be done which uses a series of X-rays to create a detailed image of your brain. A CT scan can show a hemorrhage, tumor, stroke and other conditions. Other diagnostic testing may also be performed. If it is determined that it is an Ischemic stroke, and one is eligible for tPA, it will be administered.  If it is a Hemorrhagic stroke, which involves bleeding in the brain, procedures will be taken to reduce pressure in the brain and regulate the bleeding.  Surgery may also be required. 

Based on the most recent information from the CDC, up to 80% of strokes can be prevented by managing high risk factors which include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity & physical inactivity, and use of tobacco.

If hospitalized following a Stroke, National Health Care Associates has affiliated skilled nursing centers with specialized post-acute rehabilitation therapy programming helping individuals become better, brighter, and stronger versions of themselves. For more information, please visit

Column was originally written by Laura Falt, Director of Business Development for the Connecticut Region at National.  Laura welcomes the opportunity to be a resource on services for older adults and is often featured in online publications.