Take Steps Now to Prevent a Stroke

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When someone suffers a stroke, who they are as a person can be taken away in a matter of seconds, but there are steps to prevent this from happening.

Nearly a quarter of a million Americans have strokes each year-- that's an average of one every 45 seconds.

A stroke is when blood suddenly stops flowing to the brain, mostly from a blockage or sometimes from a broken blood vessel. One-third of stroke victims don't survive and half of those that do are permanently disabled. 

Dr. Richard Zweifler, who heads Virginia's Norfolk Sentara General's neurology department,  says  people can often survive strokes with no permanent damage if they get help within three hours of the first symptoms.

"There are treatments, things we can do at the hospital to help patients when they have a stroke, but they have to be done quickly," he said.  "The sooner the better. We like to say time is brain."

Call 911 if you suddenly feel numb or weak in the face, arms or legs, especially on one side of the body.  Experiencing confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding, trouble seeing or walking, dizziness, loss of balance and severe headaches are all other symptoms that could warrant a trip to the emergency room.

Sometimes these symptoms quickly disappear --it's called a transient ischemic attack-- but don't ignore them.

T.I.A.s or mini strokes come and go so quickly they may seem harmless, but the truth is they should be taken very seriously. 

The American Heart Association says these tiny strokes should be treated as medical emergencies.  Research shows that one in four people who have a mini stroke will have a full-blown stroke, heart attack, some other reason for hospitalization or death within the next 90 days.

"The stroke itself isn't painful and it's not bloody," Zweifler explained.  "We have difficulty with patients not acting on symptoms the same way we do for trauma and heart attack."

Call an ambulance if you have stroke symptoms, even if they go away, and know that you are much less likely to have those symptoms in the first place if you treat your high blood pressure, high cholesterol and irregular heart rhythms.  Also, exercise, maintain a healthy weight and stop smoking if you've taken up the habit.

*Originally published June 5, 2009

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Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/LorieJohnsonCBN.