By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When reporters goof while live, people are quick to make fun.

That’s what a lot of people did when they first saw a reporter appear to mess up at the Grammys.

But what happened to her could be a warning sign of a stroke and that’s nothing to joke about.

At first it seemed as if LA CBS 2 reporter Serene Branson lost her train of thought.

The gibberish – a language disturbance called aphasia – could be a sign of a transient ischemic attack or TIA.

A TIA is like a stroke that resolves quickly – within 24 hours, technically, but most are over within five minutes. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about, though.

“TIAs are considered an emergency, and should be seen in the emergency department to better define what caused the symptoms, what puts the person at risk for that TIA and to take measures in the short term to prevent a stroke that may occur,” emphasizes an Allegheny General Hospital stroke neurologist Dr. Ashis Tayal.

All the typical reasons for stroke are generally looked into, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar.

But for young people, additional causes need to be considered, too, for instance, conditions and drugs that make the blood more likely to clot and congenital heart problems.

“Clotting disorders, sometimes strokes can be related to birth control,” lists Dr. Tayal.

Other possibilities include certain kinds of seizures and unusual types of migraines.

The reporter was evaluated by paramedics, then went home and saw a doctor on her own as an outpatient for more testing. But this is really a circumstance where the emergency room is appropriate.

“We know from experience that people who have a TIA have a very specific risk of having a stroke over the next two days up to the next three months,” cautions Dr. Tayal. “Just the very fact she had aphasia puts her in a higher risk category that requires more urgent attention.”

Serene Branson’s situation is a good reminder for all of us to be aware of the warning signs of stroke. Most people think of being weak or numb on one side, but depending on what part of the brain is affected, the symptoms could be sudden slurred or garbed speech, confusion, dizziness, loss of vision, or double vision. If you have any of these, get immediate medical attention.

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