Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Howe's Ailment Shines a Light on Stroke; 5 Things to Know about the Condition

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Howe's Ailment Shines a Light on Stroke; 5 Things to Know about the Condition

Article excerpt

Five things to know about strokes

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TORONTO - Hockey legend Gordie Howe has suffered a stroke, his family has revealed. The stroke has left Howe with loss of function on one side of his body and speech difficulties.

What are strokes? Why do they cause the type of damage they do? Here are five things you should know about these medical emergencies, which afflict about 50,000 Canadians a year and claim about 14,000 Canadian lives each year, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF STROKES:

Strokes are events that involve abnormal and damaging blood flow to the brain. Some are caused when the blood flow is cut off by a clot; that's called an ischemic (pronounced Is-SCHEME-Ick) stroke. Ischemic strokes make up about 80 per cent of all strokes. There are also hemorrhagic strokes, where bleeding in the brain floods some tissues and cuts off supply to others. They may be caused by an aneurysm, the bursting of a weakened area of an artery.

A third kind of stroke is known as transient ischemic attacks, TIAs or mini-strokes. TIAs are harder to spot than full-on strokes, but the damage they cause can accumulate. They are also a warning sign. People who have them are at higher risk of having a stroke. A TIA should not be ignored; seek medical care.

Howe's family hasn't said which type of stroke he had.

GETTING QUICK CARE CAN LIMIT STROKE DAMAGE:

The adage the medical profession uses is "Time is brain." If someone is having an ischemic stroke, doctors can use clot-busting drugs to break up the blockage and limit the damage. But the window in which the treatment works is small -- three hours for most patients, 4.5 hours for some others. So getting to hospital quickly is critical.

Speed is also crucial when someone has suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. Procedures to stop the bleed must be done to limit the damage

THE SIGNS OF STROKE:

There are a couple of mnemonics -- memory aids -- that have been developed to help people recognize the signs of stroke. …

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