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Stroke – What Everyone Should Know

May 17, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. - It's called the silent killer; only heart disease and cancer kill more Americans than does stroke. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. During May, American Stroke Month, health care professionals want everyone to learn more about the risk factors and warning signs.

Dr. Gerard Dillon, who is a cardiologist with Concord Hospital, says the main points are straightforward.

"Stroke is something that is preventable. There are many things that can be done to lower one's risk of having a stroke. It's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms and if one is suspicious, to seek immediate medical attention."

Risk factors for stroke are both hereditary and lifestyle-related. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes. The warning signs of stroke include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg; sudden confusion; trouble speaking, seeing, or understanding; and sudden severe headache.

Dr. Dillon says you can't change risk factors that are hereditary, but those resulting from your lifestyle or environment can be modified with the help of a health care professional.

"Things like exercise, avoiding excess sodium in the diet; that is, salt. Quitting smoking is definitely a component of lowering one's risk."

Dr. Dillon says if you or someone with you exhibits stroke symptoms, speed is critical.

"Call 911 to have an ambulance come and be brought to the hospital immediately rather than to see if things get better in a few hours or overnight; by then, the benefits of treatment may be too late."

According to the American Heart Association, stroke is the leading cause of disability in America, but with recent advances in treatment and medication, getting prompt treatment can mean the difference between walking out of the hospital and leaving in a wheelchair.

Information from the American Heart Association is at: www.americanheart.org

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH