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Lourdes Neurologist Gives Tips for Preventing Strokes

About 750,000 Americans have a stroke each year. Of those Americans, five to 14 percent will have a second stroke within a year, according to the National Stroke Association.

The good news is that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by controlling risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

“Managing risk factors is the best way to prevent a stroke and a possible recurrent stroke,” says Dr. Larry Janoff, neurologist with Lourdes Medical Associates.   “There are two types of stroke risk factors.   One type you cannot control.   The other type, which includes lifestyle choices, you can control.”

Uncontrollable risk factors include age, sex, race, family history, or chronic medical conditions.

Dr. Janoff says the lifestyle choices that can help prevent strokes include:

  • Controlling high blood pressure
  • Monitoring cholesterol levels
  • Controlling atrial fibrillation if you have it (an irregular heartbeat which allows blood to pool in the heart and cause blood clots)
  • Managing diabetes
  • Monitoring circulation problems with the help of your doctor
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Exercising often
  • Eating foods low in salt and fat

Stroke prevention is also crucial for those who have had transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or mini-strokes, says Dr. Janoff. Up to one third of people who have a TIA are expected to have a full-fledge stroke, often within three-months to a year.

“The symptoms of TIA and stroke are the same, but TIAs do not lead to permanent brain injury,” says Dr. Janoff.   “However, a TIA is a warning sign.”

Just like a first stroke, many TIAs and recurrent strokes can be prevented through lifestyle changes.

Dr. Janoff recommends being aware of symptoms to help recognize the first signs of a stroke or TIA.   He says an easy way to remember the signs is to think “FAST.”

Face:  Face droops on one side

Arm:   Difficulty lifting your arms

Speech: Trouble speaking or understanding others

Time:   Take action quickly.   Time is brain and quick treatment can help prevent permanent damage. Call 911 immediately.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Loss of vision
  • Confusion
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Changes in sensation, alertness or mood
  • Difficulty swallowing, writing or reading

“If you think you or a loved one is having a TIA or stroke, it’s a medical emergency,” advises Dr. Janoff.  “Dial 911 or your local emergency number right away. If it is a stroke, quick hospital treatment can prevent brain damage.”

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