Margaret Thatcher Dies of a Stroke
Medical Author: Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
To every life, an end must come and for the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, that end came because of stroke. She is not alone. Stroke is the number three cause of death, trailing only heart attack and cancer. Death can come quickly. With sufficient brain damage, whether due to a blocked artery or bleeding, swelling can put pressure on the automatic centers of the brain that control breathing and the heart and death is inevitable. But death can also occur later and much more slowly. The ability to swallow can be lost and the risk of aspirating saliva and food can cause pneumonia or a lung infection. The inability to move easily can cause blood clots that travel to the lung; skin can break down and cause major infection.
Stroke is bad but there is potential salvation if the patient gets to medical care fast enough. The window to make the diagnosis and inject clot busting drugs is measured in minutes and many of those are lost because neither the patient nor the family recognizes the signs of a stroke, or they choose to ignore them, hoping that the symptoms will resolve on their own. With symptoms of a transient ischemic attack (TIA), the body fixes itself. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the slurred speech, loss of vision, or weakness will get better.