Stroke’s silent side

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: November 19th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. So you might think the signs of a stroke are always obvious: slurred speech, confusion, weakness in one side of the body and headache. Now researchers have determined that one out of ten Americans will suffer what is known as a silent stroke, where victims don’t show any symptoms and might not be aware be aware of what happened to them.

The news is important because these so-called silent strokes raise a person’s risk for further strokes and memory loss.

The information is based on M-R-I scans performed on more than two-thousand people sixty-two or older. The scans showed that nearly eleven percent of the subjects had suffered a stroke, even though they showed no stroke symptoms.

Researchers looked for a common thread among the people who had suffered these strokes and found most of them had a condition known as atrial [ay-tree-al] fibrillation [fib-ril-lation], where the heart’s top two chambers don’t pump effectively enough to empty properly. This increases the chance that blood will pool or clot.

Other risk factors include carotid [cah-rotted] artery disease and high-blood pressure.

Just because the stroke is silent doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to prevent it. According to the National Institutes of Health, treating high blood pressure is the best way to ward off a stroke. Quitting smoking can also reduce your chances. And seek help immediately if you do experience any of the warning signs.