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Prevention Methods in Focus for American Stroke Month

Stroke is the sixth-leading cause of death in Washington state. (cameravit/Adobe Stock)
Stroke is the sixth-leading cause of death in Washington state. (cameravit/Adobe Stock)
May 14, 2019

TACOMA, Wash. — May is American Stroke Month, and a few tips can help people lower their chances of having a stroke. According to the American Heart Association, up to 80% of strokes are preventable, and a healthy lifestyle can go a long way.

Dr. Dennis Wang is the medical director of stroke at CHI Franciscan in Tacoma. He said it used to be hard to treat stroke, but treatment has become much better.

"These days, there are a lot more effective treatments. But even then, you don't want to rely on treatments if you don't have to. It's a lot better to try to prevent a stroke from happening in the first place,” Wang said. “If you don't smoke, if you keep a reasonable diet, a reasonable weight and you get some exercise in, you will go a long way towards preventing a stroke from happening."

The AHA also advises controlling cholesterol and blood sugar. Wang said doctors can help with medications that control things such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which increase a person's stroke risk as well. Stroke is the sixth-leading cause of death and the leading cause of preventable disability in Washington, according to the state Department of Health.

For people who may be experiencing a stroke, the "FAST" examination is an effective way to look for common warning signs. F stands for facial drooping, A for arm weakness, S for speech difficulty and T for time to call 911 if a person is showing any of these symptoms.

Wang said that last piece of advice is important. He said too many people try to drive themselves to the hospital.

"If you're having a stroke, the treatments that we have are very, very time dependent. You want to get to the hospital as soon as you can. You want to bypass the waiting room, all of that stuff,” he said. “And so the surest way to do that is to just call 911, get yourself an ambulance and get yourself to the emergency room as quickly as possible."

Black and Native American populations are more likely to die from a stroke in Washington state, as are people that live in high poverty areas. Wang said while there are many factors that contribute to this, people who commit to a healthy lifestyle can decrease their risk of stroke no matter what other factors are involved.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA