2009-05-22 / Columnists

SJEH Wellness Corner

May is American Stroke Month
Commentary By Imtiaz Khokhar, Md. Atttending, Department of Internal Medicine, St. John's Episcopal Hospital

Imtiaz Khokhar, MD Imtiaz Khokhar, MD The American Heart Association has declared May as American Stroke Month.

There's a good reason why we should all take notice. Knowing about strokes

preventing them and recognizing the symptoms - may save a life or stop a disease from devastating an individual and their families.

Stroke is the third leading killer in the United States. More than 700,000 people in the United States suffer from stroke every year.

A stroke occurs when blood circulation to the brain fails. Blood brings oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. If blood flow to the brain is blocked, those cells could start to die.

So, someone who has had a stroke may have trouble speaking, thinking or walking.

There are two kinds of strokes. Ischemic strokes are the most common and are caused by a blood clot or the narrowing of a blood vessel leading to the brain. The other kind is a hemorrhagic stroke where a broken blood vessel causes bleeding in the brain. Knowing the warning signs of stroke and controlling risk factors for stroke may lower the risk of death or disability caused by strokes. A Stroke is an Emergency

Warning signs of stroke are the clues your body sends that your brain is not receiving enough oxygen.

If you observe one or more of any stroke symptoms, even if they don't last long, call 911.

Call 911 right away if you see or suffer from any of these possible symptoms:

Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;

Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding;

Sudden problems seeing in one or both eyes;

Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination or trouble walking; or

Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Sometimes stroke symptoms may last only a few minutes and then go away. A mini-stroke, or transient Ischemic attack (TIA) is also a medical emergency and should be treated right away.

Stroke Risk Factors

Some risk factors for stroke can be controlled or treated, thereby reducing one's risk of having a stroke. These risk factors include:

High blood pressure: have your blood pressure checked often. If it is high follow your doctor's advice.

Smoking: it's never too late to quit.

High cholesterol: Cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries, possibly leading to a blockage and to a stroke.

Work with your physician to lower your cholesterol.

Diabetes: untreated diabetes may also damage blood vessels and narrow arteries.

Follow your doctor's suggestions for keeping your diabetes under control.

How is Stroke Treated

Among the medical tests used to diagnose stroke, a CT scan allows doctors to look closely at the pictures of the brain.

All strokes benefit from immediate medical treatment.

Only ischemic stroke, which is caused by a clot, may be treated with a drug called tPA (tissue-plasminogen activator).

This clot-busting drug can lessen the damage caused by an ischemic stroke. Key to its use is receiving the medication within three hours of the stroke.

If you think you or someone you know may have the symptoms of a stroke please call 911 immediately. If you have any further questions about strokes, you may make an appointment to see a doctor at the Internal Medicine practice at St. John's Episcopal Hospital.

To make an appointment please call 718-869-5710. The practice also has convenient evening and Saturday morning hours.

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