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and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

November 9, 2012

Stroke affects older veterans

Recognizing stroke symptoms is critical

For veteran Chuck Bennett, it was a day just like any other. He came home from work and sat down to watch TV. The next thing he knew he was in the hospital. Bennett had suffered a stroke.

Bennett, who served in the Air Force for almost 22 years, had only one warning sign. His wife, Rita, noticed one side of his jaw drooping and called the family doctor. The doctor told her to immediately call 9-1-1.

“If there is any advice I can give a veteran it is get to the hospital, preferably by EMS, immediately if you think you are having a stroke,” Bennett said. “Strokes can strike with no warning, but getting help immediately saved my life.”

Each year in the United States, approximately 15,000 veterans are hospitalized for stroke-related conditions, according to the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  These numbers will rise as veterans grow older. The risk of stroke begins to increase dramatically after age 55.

“Unless they have someone looking out for their health issues, a lot of older veterans are unlikely to seek the medical attention they need,” said Helena’s Mike Hankins, a veteran of the Korean conflict and an advocate for veterans.

Delay is deadly in the event of stroke. In as little as four minutes, brain cells begin to die, so it is imperative to call 9-1-1 right away. The best treatment for stroke must begin within three hours from the start of symptoms. Treatment can include a drug that breaks up blood clots and prevents further brain damage. Patients who arrive by ambulance receive faster care because the hospital can prepare before the patient arrives.

“Recognizing stroke symptoms and acting fast are critical to help save lives and prevent permanent impairment,” said Anna Whiting Sorrell, director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).
The DPHHS Cardiovascular Health Program kicked off in November a stroke awareness campaign in Lewis & Clark County. 

The VA Hospital at Fort Harrison, the Montana American Legion, Lewis & Clark County Health Department, Helena Cooperative Health Clinic, Lewis & Clark County Library, St. Peter’s Hospital, Senior Centers, and other local partners will help to get stroke education materials to the public over the next five months.

Stroke warning signs include:

  • Sudden weakness of the face, arm or leg usually affecting one side of the body
  • Sudden loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden vision problems or severe headache with no known cause

To learn more about stroke, visit http://www.strokeassociation.org or call 1-888-4-STROKE

Page last updated: 10/02/2012