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Your Healthy Family: COVID-19 infection may increase stroke risk

Posted at 9:24 AM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 11:24:26-04

CLEVELAND, OHIO — May is Stroke Awareness Month.

We know COVID-19 impacts the lungs, but recent data shows the infection may also increase a person’s risk for suffering a stroke.

Shazam Hussain, M.D. wasn’t involved in the study, but said strokes caused by blood clots appear to be impacting those under age 50 with COVID-19.

“In places where there’s been a lot of COVID infection, places like New York and Detroit, and other centers that are seeing surges in COVID, are actually seeing a lot of stroke in those locations,” he said. “Also, it seems to be it’s not a classic situation of stroke. We’re actually seeing young people who don’t have the traditional risk factors for stroke like high blood pressure, or other problems. These are young, healthy people, who are coming in with big, big strokes.”

Regardless of age or COVID-19, Dr. Hussain said stroke symptoms should never be ignored.

He reminds people to use the acronym ‘BE FAST’ to recognize stroke symptoms.

‘B’ stands for trouble with balance.

‘E’ is eyes and vision problems.

‘F’ is for droopiness in the face.

‘A’ is for arm or leg weakness.

‘S’ stands for trouble with speech.

‘T’ is time – to remind us that time is of the essence and to call 911 quickly.

During a stroke, Dr. Hussain said two million neurons are lost every minute– so time to treatment matters.

“We do have very effective therapies for stroke, but they are time limited,” said Dr. Hussain. “There’s a clot buster medication called TPA, which we can give within four and a half hours. There are procedures that we can do to remove clots out of blood vessels, but we really want to be doing that within the first 6 -24 hours after a stroke starts. The longer that it takes to get treatment, potentially the worse someone can do.”

Dr. Hussain said some people are afraid to come to the emergency room because of COVID-19. However, he said that hospitals are taking extra precautions to keep all patients safe.

If someone has stroke symptoms – do not delay care, seek medical attention immediately.