The Medical History of The Stroke

Deanne Stein Health Guide
  • It’s been so long since I was in middle school. But we tend to relive our schools days through our children. My son is pretty good at getting his homework done, but when it comes to big projects or book reports, I find myself in the thick of it all with him. Most of the work isn’t hard, just time-consuming. My son, like most kids, even me sometimes, put it off until the last minute.

    I was helping him this weekend look up information for an historical figure in the United States. He picked Lou Gehrig, the baseball great that died of the disease in his name. As we researched Gehrig, I was curious as to what the history was of my own disease.
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    Through my own homework, I discovered Hippocrates, the father of medicine, first recognized stroke over 2,400 years ago. What was interesting though, was it wasn’t called a stroke back then. It was called apoplexy. I’m trying to say it in my head right now and I know I’m failing miserably. Anyway, it means “struck down by violence” in Greek. In fact, the ancients believe someone who was having a stroke, was being struck down by the gods. During this time, physicians didn’t know much about anatomy or the function of the brain, much less the cause of stroke and how to treat it.

    Stroke is a scary thing, especially for people like me, who went through it. Thank goodness it is more recognizable and treatable today. Can you imagine having a stroke and sincerely not knowing why it’s happening? How terrifying to go through the symptoms of stroke and not know what to do about it. And what’s worse, back then, your doctor is just as dumbfounded as you are.

    It wasn’t until the mid-1600s that a man named Jacob Wepfer found the similarities between stroke victims. They either had bleeding in the brain or a clogged blood vessel. In 1928, apoplexy was finally divided into categories based on the cause and called stroke or “cerebral vascular accident (CVA). Now, it’s simply referred to as a “brain attack.”

    There is still no cure for stroke, but victims these days have a much better chance of survival and recovery. In fact, the American Heart Association began funding stroke research in the 1950s. It has been active ever since in the effort to detect, prevent and treat stroke. It even has a scientific journal and an international conference on stroke. Just looking at how far we’ve come, it’s encouraging to think researchers will take it even further in the future.


    Stroke Association

    Virginia Health Systems
Published On: November 14, 2006