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More than 2,400 years ago the father of medicine, Hippocrates, recognized and described stroke and the sudden onset of paralysis. Until recently, modern medicine has had very little power over this disease, but the world of stroke medicine is changing and new and better therapies are being developed everyday.

Today, some people who have a stroke can walk away from the attack with no, or few, disabilities if they are treated promptly. Doctors can finally offer stroke patients and their families the one thing that until recently, has been so hard to give: hope for a normal life.

Here are some signs to look for. Sudden:
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding,
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache with no known cause

Time is critical and treatment should be started within an hour. Never attempt to drive yourself the hospital!

If you are experiencing any of these stroke symptoms, you need to get to a hospital that is a certified stroke center as soon as possible.

Call 911 and tell the operator about your symptoms. They will dispatch Palm Beach Fire-Rescue to you.

The Fire-Rescue team vehicle is equipped as a mini intensive care unit and the responding team has been specially trained to immediately treat emergencies such as stroke. They will also contact the hospital by radio and alert the staff that they have a stroke patient in the vehicle and to discuss any necessary emergency treatment that may be needed.  The hospital will alert the Stroke team of the arriving patient to get treatment started right away.

At the hospital, diagnostic steps will be done to differentiate whether the stroke has occurred from an obstruction such as a clot or from a hemorrhaging blood vessel in the brain. About 80% of strokes are due to a blood clot and only 20% due to bleeding.

Risk factors for Stroke

Many factors can increase your risk of a stroke. A number of these factors can also increase your chances of having a heart attack. Risk factors include:
- A family history of stroke, heart attack or TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attack)
- Being age 55 or older
- Having high blood pressure — a systolic blood pressure of 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher, or a diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher
- Having high cholesterol — a total cholesterol level of 200 milligrams or higher
- Cigarette smoking
- Diabetes
- Obesity
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, a heart defect, heart infection or abnormal heart rhythm
- Previous stroke or TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)
- High levels of homocysteine (an amino acid) in your blood
- Use of birth control pills or other hormone therapy

Other factors that can increase your risk of stroke include heavy or binge drinking and the use of illicit drugs such as cocaine.