BY JOE MARVILLI
When it comes to health risks, there are few problems more dangerous than a stroke. The medical emergency can arrive without warning and cause brain damage or death. While a stroke can happen to anyone, there are ways to mitigate and lessen the risks.
A stroke is the rapid loss of brain function due to a disturbance in the blood flow to the brain, caused by some sort of blockage in a major artery or arteries leading there. Rajeev Dayal, M.D., Chief of Vascular Surgery at New York Hospital Queens, said there are 750,000 strokes in the United States per year. To decrease the risk of a stroke, Dayal recommended a healthy diet and exercise to keep blood moving smoothly to the brain.
“Sometimes it’s called a brain attack. Inadequate blood flow leads to damage to the brain cells,” he said. “People are left with some sort of deficit afterwards. Sometimes they can’t speak or swallow or move their arms or legs.”
According to Dayal, the most common type of stroke comes from poorly-controlled blood pressure. Blockages can be created by fatty deposits or sometimes pieces of plaque breaking off in arteries in the chest. In either case, the brain does not receive enough oxygen and other supplies that are carried in the blood stream.
The healthier a person is though, the more he or she decreases the risk of getting a stroke. Eating well, exercising, not smoking and managing any long-lasting diseases or health problems all help to decrease the chances of a stroke. The reverse holds true as well though. Those who do not lead healthy lifestyles increase their risks, particularly as they get older.
“The risk of stroke doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the cumulative effect of not taking care of yourself for years,” Dayal said. “The older you are, the more at risk you are for heart disease and stroke. A stroke really is environmental risk factors, such as smoking, and the cumulative conditions that you develop.”
For people who have had a stroke or have a high risk of getting one, there are some treatment options available. If a patient has blockages in the arteries of the neck, then Dayal said the hospital would put him or her on an aspirin a day and taking medicine for cholesterol. If the patient has poorly controlled hypertension, then the hospital will regulate his or her heartbeat.
“It kind of depends on what has put them at risk,” Dayal said. “Since strokes come from three or four different causes, you have to pinpoint and treat that potential cause.”
In addition, Dayal said people who think they are in danger of having a stroke should follow up with their doctor and see what they can do to decrease the risk.
For more information on strokes and stroke prevention, visit the National Stroke Association at www.stroke.org, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/stroke/healthy_living.htm and Million Hearts at www.millionhearts.hhs.gov/index.html.
New York Hospital Queens is located at 56-45 Main St., Flushing and its website is www.nyhq.org.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.