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Can You Have a Stroke and Not Know It?

Study Shows Some People Have Mild Strokes That Aren't Diagnosed
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 9, 2006 -- Many U.S. adults aged 45 and older may have had a stroke without realizing it, a new study shows.

People should learn stroke's warning signs and immediately seek emergency medical help if those symptoms appear, write the researchers.

Before you read about their study, which appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine, review stroke's possible warning signs:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body
  • Abrupt loss of vision, strength, coordination, sensation, speech, or the ability to understand speech. These symptoms may become more marked over time.
  • Sudden dimness of vision, especially in one eye
  • Sudden loss of balance, possibly accompanied by vomiting, nausea, fever, hiccups, or trouble with swallowing
  • Sudden and severe headache with no other cause followed rapidly by loss of consciousness -- indications of a stroke due to bleeding
  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Unexplained dizzinessdizziness or sudden falls

If you or someone with you shows any possible signs of stroke, don't hesitate. Get emergency medical care right away.

Some stroke medicines must be given shortly after stroke symptoms start, and those drugs can make a big difference in the outcome of a stroke.

Stroke Symptoms Study

The new study on stroke symptoms comes from researchers including Virginia Howard, MSPH, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

By telephone, Howard's team interviewed more than 18,400 U.S. adults aged 45 and older (average age: nearly 66).

All of the participants said they had never been told that they had had a stroke or a "mini-stroke" (transient ischemic attack, or TIA). The group was evenly split between whites and blacks. Blacks are at higher risk of stroke than whites.

Half of the participants live in the so-called "stroke belt" states -- North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana -- which have particularly high stroke rates.

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