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American Stroke Month: Over a Third of Stroke Victims Don't Call 911

Update Date: Apr 30, 2013 12:37 PM EDT

Tomorrow does not just bring May flowers - it is the start of American Stroke Month. Each year, 795,000 people suffer from strokes each year, but there remains limited awareness on how to recognize the symptoms and what to do if a stroke is occurring. In fact, a third of people who have the symptoms of a stroke do not even call 911, or emergency medical services, harming their chance at receiving prompt medical care.

According to a recent study, calling 911 or emergency medical services improves stroke victims' chance at recovery and survival. People who call an ambulance are more likely to arrive within two hours of the first symptoms and to receive medical care within three hours of the earliest symptoms, the critical time period in which to administer clot-bursting devices and drugs.

"EMS are able to give the hospital a heads up, and that grabs the attention of the emergency room staff to be ready to act as soon as the patient arrives," Dr. Jeffrey L. Saver, senior author of the study and director of the University of California, Los Angeles's Comprehensive Stroke Center, said to Science Codex. "The ambulance crew also knows which hospitals in the area have qualified stroke centers. Patients don't lose time going to one hospital only to be referred to another that can provide more advanced care if needed, whether that's drugs to bust up the clot or device procedures to remove it."

People of color and people in rural areas were less likely to use an ambulance to go to the hospital. People who did not take the ambulance to the hospital typically drove themselves or had a family member or friend drive them.

USA Today reports that there are a number of reasons that people do not call for emergency services while having a stroke. Some people think that they can sleep off the symptoms, which is the worst thing that they can do. If people are alone, the stroke can make it difficult to communicate, let alone call for help. Many people worry about cost; however, if you have insurance, insurance will cover the cost of an ambulance if you are suffering the symptoms of a stroke. Even people without insurance should not gamble with their lives over cost.

Stroke symptoms include facial drooping, limb weakness and difficulty speaking. The Mayo Clinic reports that it occurs when the brain's supply of blood is blocked.

The study was published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

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