Emergency: Brain attack!
Recognize a stroke and save your life.
By Ivan Olegario, M.D.
We Filipinos know too well what a heart attack looks like, thanks to its portrayal in countless movies and TV shows: the elderly man or woman, in a fit of anger or shock, suddenly develops excruciating chest pain, which later leads to death. The effect—when someone develops chest pain, that somebody is quickly brought to the emergency room.
Sadly, this is not the usual scenario when a person suffers from a brain attack.
“Wait, what is a brain attack?” you ask in your head.
A brain attack, or a stroke, is a medical emergency worthy of as much urgency as a heart attack. It’s when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted, either due to a blockage, such as from a blood clot or ischemic stroke; or due to a burst blood vessel or hemorrhagic stroke. Since brain cells are highly dependent on oxygen and sugar from the blood supply, a brain attack leads to the rapid death of brain cells. The longer the brain is starved of its blood supply, the larger the damage becomes.
In the 1970s, doctors Vladimir Hachinski and John Norris moved that a stroke be rightfully called a “brain attack.” Their goal was to cause alarm and highlight that the urgency of a stroke should be the same as that involving in a heart attack—because the faster treatment is received by the stroke victim, the more his brain is spared from injury.
Around half of people who suffer from brain attacks are unaware they’re experiencing a stroke. This is because people don’t usually know what a stroke looks or feels like. The problem is that a stroke can manifest differently for different people, depending on which blood vessel in the brain was affected, and the extent of the injury. Some people can experience one or more of the following symptoms: