What's Your Stroke IQ?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. "I was driving, and I just started feeling real dizzy and lightheaded," Jennifer Shepard told Ivanhoe.

"I couldn't get it together. I was very undone that morning," Mia Burkhard recalled to Ivanhoe.

Both Shepard and Burkhard are young, healthy and had no idea they were having a stroke.

"I thought I could possibly be getting a cold," Shepard explained. "I just remember wanting to go back to bed."

Shepard's friends finally called for help when they saw her face drooping -- more than two hours after the symptoms started.

"I wasn't at risk," Shepard said. "I didn't have any of the red flags."

In a recent study of more than 15,000 people, only 23 percent arrived at the hospital within two hours of stroke symptoms.

Kevin M. Barrett, M.D., MSc, a vascular neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., says even if driving yourself to the ER seems faster, it's not.

"If you're taken by an ambulance, you'll be seen by a doctor faster, and that's the key," Dr. Barrett told Ivanhoe.

In another survey, fewer than two in five people knew the warning signs. Vision loss and severe headache are two warning signs. Others include: balance problems, loss of feeling on one side of the body and trouble speaking. Doctors say it can be a subtle change.

"There was no slurred speech, no other signs other than I couldn't see very well," Burkhard told Ivanhoe.

Burkhard is a radiology technician who works with stroke patients. Even she didn't pick up on her own symptoms until hours after she drove herself to work.

"It can happen to anybody," Burkhard said.

Burkhard and Shepard both missed the standard three-hour window for treatment, but they're recovering after months of therapy.

Nearly one-quarter of strokes occur in people under age 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles for every decade after the age of 55. African Americans have a higher stroke death rate compared to whites, even at younger ages.

Cindy Nelson, Public Affairs
The Mayo Clinic
Jacksonville, FL
(904) 953-0464

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