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Stroke Awareness Month

By: Mouhammad Jumaa, MD, ProMedica Physicians Neurology


May is National Stroke Awareness Month and a great time to educate and inform the public about the number five cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States.


What is a stroke?

A stroke is brain damage due to leakage or disruption of the blood supply to the brain. There are two types of strokes. Eighty-seven percent of strokes are caused by a blockage in a blood vessel supplying the brain, called an ischemic stroke. The other type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by a bleed. 


What are some medical conditions that can increase the risk of stroke?

High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can cause narrowing or weaken the vessels to a point that they may shut down,, heightening the chances of having a stroke. Sleep apnea can cause low oxygen levels and elevate the blood pressure or disrupt the heart rate, which may lead to a stroke. Atrial Fibrillation can be a risk for forming a blood clot in the heart, which may travel up to the brain and cause a stroke.


What are some behaviors that decrease the risk of stroke?

Eighty percent of stroke can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle, specifically:

Don’t Smoke - Smoking decreases oxygen levels in the blood, and the nicotine may raise the heart rate, blood pressure and make the blood more prone to clotting.

Limit Alchohol - Excessive alcohol use may affect your heart which could increase the chances of experiencing a stroke.

Maintain a Healthy Weight - Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of stroke by elevating many risk factors and increasing inflammation throughout the body.


What are the warning signs of a stroke?

The abbreviation, BE FAST, is often used to remember the warning signs of stroke and when to immediately call 911.

Balance difficulties

Eyesight changes

Face droops

Arm weakness

Speech difficulties

Time to call 911


What is a tPA and when can it be administered?

Recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is often referred to as the “clot buster medicine” that may be given to try and restore blood flow to the brain in the setting of acute ischemic stroke. This medicine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for administration up to three hours from symptoms onset, and in a select population, it is recommended for use in a four-and-a-half-hour time frame from symptoms onset.


What other procedure can be done?

A mechanical thrombectomy is a procedure for ischemic stroke during which a small catheter is introduced into the blood vessels at the groin or the wrist and threaded up to the site of the blockage in the brain. The blockage is then removed, restoring blood supply to the brain. This procedure is considered for patients having a moderate or severe stroke due to a blockage in a large blood vessel within 24 hours from symptoms onset.


What do people need to know in terms of minority health and stroke?

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African American men are 70% more likely to die from a stroke than non-Hispanic whites. African American women are twice as likely to have a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic white women.


These numbers are very concerning. It is very important for physicians and other health care providers to be aware of the disparities in stroke care and outcomes. Several large research projects are looking at the potential causes and ways to fix this major public health problem. Some of the strategies can include better access to primary care for early treatment of risk factors and stroke prevention, education, early recognition and early interventions.


What research is being done here locally on stroke?

There is local involvement in multiple national clinical trials for stroke. Some exciting trials include the utilization of a blood clot-busting medication outside of the four-and-a-half-hour time frame and the use of neuroprotective agents/strategies in patients with strokes. Currently, local patients are being recruited for a study utilizing stem cells for patients with moderate to severe strokes.


On a national level, There continues to be extensive research, and promising results, for example on neuroprotective medications which can limit brain injury if administered quickly after the onset of a stroke.  Another frontier of research is stroke recovery where there may be a role for stem cells or magnetic stimulation.  Stroke research is exciting and holds great promise, but as the old saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure.’


Just remember to BE FAST with any signs of stroke!




Copyright © 1989 to 2021 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/11/21 20:24:33 -0700.





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