Friday, June 13, 2008

Half of Canadians don't treat stroke as emergency

from... News Staff

A new cross-country survey by the Heart and Stroke Foundation has found that Canadians are not taking the warning signs of stroke seriously -- to their own peril.

The report card finds that at least half of all Canadians don't respond to the signs of stroke the way they would to other medical emergencies.

"We were very surprised by the results," Stephen Samis, director of health policy at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, told CTV Newsnet on Thursday.

"It's pretty frightening to think that half of Canadians don't think that stroke is a medical emergency, especially when you think how critical it is that Candians get to the office of their doctor or to the hospital as soon as possible."

Stroke, typically caused by a blood clot that cuts off blood flow to the brain, can be treated in most cases if it is dealt with within three hours.

But once that window has closed, the effects are usually irreversible, Samis said.

"Canadians, like other people, will often think 'oh it will pass, it's not a problem.' The problem with stroke is, you don't have time to do that," he said.

"If you have any of those warning signs and if they're sudden, even if they're temporary, call 911, get to the hospital. If you get there within three hours if it is a stroke it can be reversed."

Here are some of the warning signs of stroke:

* Sudden vision problems
* Headache
* Weakness
* Trouble speaking
* Dizziness

The study found that three quarters of Canadians can recognize at lease one of those signs of stroke, but less than half said they would call 911 if they or someone they knew was experiencing one of the signs.

Samis said the survey is intended to serve as a wake-up call to Canadians.

About 50,000 Canadians experience stroke each year, The Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates:

* 15 per cent will die
* 10 per cent will recover completely
* 25 per cent will recover with a minor impairment or disability
* 40 per cent will suffer a moderate to severe impairment
* 10 per cent will suffer severe impairment and will require longterm care as a result

In a province by province analysis, the study found that Quebec had the highest proportion of people -- 53 per cent -- who said they would call 911 if they experienced one of the symptoms.

Newfoundland had the lowest proportion, with only 24 per cent saying they would call 911.

Here are the results for the other provinces:

* Ontario: 51 per cent
* Nova Scotia: 50 per cent
* British Columbia: 49 per cent
* Alberta: 43 per cent
* Manitoba: 41 per cent
* Saskatchewan: 33 per cent
* P.E.I.: 26 per cent

Averaged out nationally, 49 per cent of Canadians said they would call 911 if they experienced one of the signs of stroke -- a number that is far lower than it should be, the Heart and Stroke Foundation maintains.

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