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Jan 11, 2016 12:20 PM EST

Young adults delay treatment for a stroke, survey says

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A new survey suggests that three-quarters of young American adults delay going to the hospital if they have stroke symptoms, U.S. News reports.

"Timely treatment for stroke is probably more important than for almost any other medical problem there is," Dr. David Liebeskind, professor of neurology at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, said in a university news release.

The researchers explained that people with an ischemic stroke should receive medical care within three hours of the stroke for the blood flow to the brain to be restored and to minimize or reverse the damage caused by the stroke.

"Believe it or not, it's on the order of minutes or hours when somebody has to seek medical attention," Liebeskind said. "There simply is no time to wait. It's a message that we clearly need to get to younger people more effectively."

The patient of a stroke must receive treatment with clot-busting drugs within three hours of the stroke to have optimal effect.

"There is a very limited window in which to start treatment because the brain is very sensitive to a lack of blood flow or to bleeding, and the longer patients wait, the more devastating the consequences," added Liebeskind. He is also director of outpatient stroke and neurovascular programs and director of the neurovascular imaging research core at the medical center.

For the survey, the researchers asked more than 1,000 people nationwide what they would do within three hours of having common symptoms of stroke, such as weakness, numbness, and difficulty speaking or seeing. Around 73 percent of the respondents below the age of 45 said they would likely wait to see if their symptoms improved.

Liebeskind said. "We need to educate younger people about the symptoms of stroke and convince them of the urgency of the situation, because the numbers are going up."

The study authors noted that to know the signs of stroke and know what to do, people should memorize the acronym "FAST," which stands for: Face drooping; Arm weakness; Speech difficulty; Time to call 911.

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