What You Need to Know About Stroke, AFib and Bell’s Palsy

What You Need to Know About Stroke, AFib and Bell’s Palsy

If you were asked to compare two brain diseases (stroke and Bell’s palsy) and one heart disease (AFib), you might start hearing the lyrics to that old Sesame Street song one of these things is not like the others run through your head. You’re welcome.

But are you right? Take our quiz below to see how much you know about each one (before the song is done).

Match the disease to its definition.

  1. Stroke
  2. Bell’s Palsy
  3. Atrial fibrillation (AFib)

A. It’s estimated that 2.7 to 6.1 million people in the U.S. have this condition, which increases risk for one of the other diseases by about 5 times.

B. This is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

C. This condition is caused by a disruption in the connection between the brain and the facial muscles, resulting in facial weakness or paralysis.

stroke-hra-headerStroke.

Answer: B

Stroke, a brain disease caused when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off, is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

More stroke facts:

  • Someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds
  • Each year:
    • Nearly 800,000 people suffer a stroke
    • More than 140,000 die
  • Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented; know your risks so you can take steps to reduce them
  • Leading causes of stroke include:
    • High blood pressure (raises risk by 150%)
    • High cholesterol
    • Smoking
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • AFib
  • Stroke risk increases with age, but strokes can occur at any age
    • In 2009, 34% of people hospitalized for stroke were under 65

Just ask Cassie Scantlin, who was a 21-year-old college senior at the time of her stroke. Or Jerry Wren, who was only 35 when he had his.

Recognizing stroke and acting FAST.

If you or someone you’re with is having a stroke, don’t wait like Cassie did. Take emergency action immediately. Use the acronym FAST to learn and remember the signs of stroke.

  • FACE: facial drooping, especially on one side
  • ARMS: trouble raising arms, also perhaps confined to one side
  • SPEECH: difficulty speaking or slurring words
  • TIME: time equals brain, so act quickly and call 911 or head to the closest ER

Albert Yoo, MD, a neurologist at Medical City Plano, says that stroke recognition is key because treatment is time dependent. Every minute that passes without medical care means more brain cells are dying.

Bell’s palsy.

Answer: C

Bell’s palsy is caused by a disruption in the connection between the brain and the facial muscles, resulting in facial weakness or paralysis. This temporary facial paralysis is similar to the typically one-sided facial drooping that can occur with stroke. Unlike stroke, however, Bell’s palsy is brought on by damage or trauma to the facial nerves and is usually not permanent.

Scientists think the disorder, which affects about 40,000 Americans annually, may be brought on by a viral infection such as viral meningitis or the common cold.

CardioGrandPa_680x291.jpg

Atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Answer: A

It’s estimated that 2.7 to 6.1 million people in the U.S. have AFib, which increases risk for stroke by about 5 times. It’s the most common type of heart arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat. AFib accounts for more than 750,000 hospitalizations and an estimated 130,000 deaths a year.

Dale Yoo, MD, a cardio electrophysiologist at Medical City McKinney, explains what an arrhythmia is and how to know if you might have one.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation.

AFib symptoms can include:

  • Irregular heartbeat (too fast, too slow, rapid, fluttering, pounding, etc.)
  • Exhaustion
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling:
    • Lightheaded
    • Short of breath

Some people will have no symptoms of AFib, so it’s important to know how healthy your heart is and take steps to reduce your risks for all types of heart disease.

Dr. Yoo says that people who have only slight symptoms may attribute them to aging, anxiety or even a panic attack when in fact, it is AFib.

Who’s at risk for AFib?

Atrial fibrillation risks include:

  • Aging
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Other heart problems

Dr. Yoo explains when heart fluttering should send you straight to the ER.

Just as the words of another old song — your knee bone’s connected to your thigh bone and so on — medical conditions often have their own connections even if we can’t always see them. In this case, stroke and Bell’s palsy attack the same area of the body and have similar symptoms but different causes, while stroke and AFib target different body parts but share similar risk factors. And in fact, having AFib puts you at greater risk of having a stroke.

It’s a good lesson to always tell your doctor about any symptoms you’re having, even if you think they’re unrelated to your current condition. It’s also a good reminder to follow a whole-body lifestyle plan that includes trading unhealthy habits for healthy ones.

If you suspect someone in your family has one of the conditions listed above, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Always call 911 if you are having a medical emergency.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you or call our free 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

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