Nocturnal Danger

Nocturnal Danger

One in seven strokes happen when people are asleep.

Published May 17, 2011

For African-Americans a recent study has even more bad news when it comes to strokes. It’s not enough that Blacks have nearly twice the risk of strokes compared to whites, or that they die from them more often. Blacks also have to worry about having strokes in their sleep.


About 14 percent of all strokes happen while people are asleep, which gets in the way of treatment, according to research published in a recent issue of Neurology.


“Because the only treatment for ischemic stroke must be given within a few hours after the first symptoms begin, people who wake up with stroke symptoms often can’t receive the treatment since we can’t determine when the symptoms started,” said study author Jason Mackey, MD, of the University of Cincinnati and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Imaging studies are being conducted now to help us develop better methods to identify which people are most likely to benefit from the treatment, even if symptoms started during the night.”


Over the course of a year the study analyzed strokes in people over the age of 18 in the greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region. Out of 1,854 participants, 273 woke up with stroke symptoms. It’s estimated that 58,000 people in the United States every year suffer from these types of strokes.


Volunteers who woke up having a stroke were compared to those who began their stroke symptoms while they were awake and found no significant differences with the exception of age. There were, however, small differences in terms of age and how bad the strokes were. The average age of people who had wake-up strokes was 72 years old, individuals that had non-wake-up strokes were about 70. Ones with wake-up strokes also had an average score of four for stroke severity, while those with non-wake-up strokes had a three. Any score from one to four is considered a mild stroke.


To reduce your risk of having a stroke the American Stroke Association recommends:


Reduce your chances of having a stroke by learning the risk factors and working with your doctor to help reduce your risk.


Recognize the warning signs of a stroke. Stroke is a medical emergency. Every second counts!


Respond by calling 9-1-1 immediately if you or someone close to you is having warning signs of stroke. Then check the time. When did the first symptom start? You'll be asked this important question later.


(Photo: Fotopress/Getty Images)

Written by Brandi Tape


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