Health Check: Knowing symptoms of a stroke can save a life

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FREMONT, Neb. (WOWT) -- Every 40 seconds: That's how often someone has a stroke.

There are more than 140,000 stroke deaths every year. As 6 News reports, knowing the warning signs could save your life.

Ronnie Sandeen thought he was the picture of health. In his 50s, he still works out and loves the outdoors.

"I do a lot of walking with my dog," Sandeen said.

But walking was suddenly a challenge one Sunday morning five years ago.

"I lost the feeling in my legs and immediately fell to the floor and found myself dragging myself to the sofa," he said.

His legs wouldn't work, so his wife called 911.

Sandeen was having a stroke.

John Hogue of Methodist Fremont Health was the ER doctor on duty.

"As you get older — it's a huge problem in the United States," Hogue said.

He says the older we get, the more at-risk we all are for having a stroke.

"The most common type of stroke is what's called an Ischemic stroke where a clot blocks off a major vessel in the brain," Dr. Hogue said.

When the blood supply to the brain is cut off, those brain cells can die. It happens fast, which is why we need to know the warning signs.

"A change in their vision, a change in their ability for them to express themselves, their ability to talk, their ability to walk a limb that is weak," Dr. Hogue said. "It can be as simple as someone dropping their coffee cup they're like, 'I can't hold my cup of coffee.' "

If you are having a stroke, time is critical. Dr. Hogue says you should get to a nearby hospital within three hours of your initial symptoms.

Medication can help, but it has to be given within the first few hours of symptoms.

If not, "it can be fatal," Hogue said.

It can also be debilitating.

"Mobility — ability to get up out of bed walk — all those things can be affected by stroke," Hogue said.

Sandeen got to the hospital in time. After treatment and lots of physical therapy, he is now back to his old self again.

"There's always anxiety that it could happen again," he said.

For 25% of stroke victims, it does.

But Sandeen is hoping his healthy choices prevent him from being a statistic.

To reduce your chances of having a stroke, you need to know the risk factors. Those at a higher risk have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or have a family history of stroke.