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
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.
Have You Had These Symptoms?
Participants answered six questions about stroke symptoms:
"Have you ever had sudden painless weakness on one side of your body?"
Nearly 6% said yes.
"Have you ever had sudden numbness or a dead feeling on one side of your
body?" More than 8% said yes.
"Have you ever had sudden painless loss of vision in one or both eyes?"
More than 4% said yes.
"Have you ever suddenly lost one half of your vision?" About 3% said
"Have you ever suddenly lost the ability to understand what people are
saying?" Nearly 3% said yes.
"Have you ever suddenly lost the ability to express yourself verbally or in
writing?" Almost 4% said yes.
Overall, nearly 18% of the group reported having had at least one of those
Those participants were more likely to be black, to have lower incomes and
education levels, and to rate their overall health as "poor" or "fair" instead
of "excellent," "very good," or "good."
The study doesn't show whether those people actually had strokes or sought
care for their stroke symptoms.
Participants got a brief checkup three or four weeks after being interviewed
by the researchers.
Using information from those checkups, Howard's team calculated each
person's odds of having a stroke in the next 10 years, based on factors
including age, smoking status, blood pressure, heart
diseaseheart disease, and diabetesdiabetes.
Participants with poor stroke-risk-factor scores were particularly likely to
have reported experiencing stroke symptoms.
The findings raise the possibility that some participants may have had mild
strokes that hadn't been diagnosed, the researchers note.