American Stroke Month: Decreasing risk of stroke

Smoking, diabetes, obesity and drug use are just some of the many things that can lead to a stroke. (WCHS/WAH)

In the second week of American Stroke Month, Eyewitness News is focusing on how stroke can impact anyone at any time. Anchor Whitney Wetzel talked to a neurologist about ways to decrease your risk of having a stroke. In order to know the best ways to prevent a stroke, you first have to know what causes one.

"The most common causes of stroke are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes," said Dr. Darshan Dave, a neurologist at CAMC.

Smoking and obesity are also factors that can lead to plaque build-up in the small arteries, which can then lead to stroke. Most commonly, Dr. Dave said a blot clot breaking loose from the heart is typically what causes stroke in older patients. But, a growing cause of stroke particularly in Appalachia is drug use.

"Some of the drugs can constrict your blood vessels and lead to the stroke,” Dr. Dave explained. “They develop infections into the heart and that leads to the stroke, which that has become very common in the young population particularly conjunctive with the drug epidemic."

Stroke can lead to a variety of defects, such as weakness on one side of the body or permanent paralysis. Stroke victims usually also experience permanent coordination problems or a speech deficit. That’s why it’s important to get medical attention as soon as you recognize the signs of having a stroke in order to lessen its impact.

"If you start having a numbness on one side of the body or weakness on one side of the body or if you have a sudden onset of any dizziness, coordination problem, sudden onset of acute memory problem or speech problem or loss of vision; those are the conditions, those are the things that should warn you of a stroke and you should immediately seek medical attention," said Dr. Dave.

After a stroke happens, the most important things are medical treatment and rehabilitation, which includes physical, occupational and speech therapies. Dr. Dave said the most recovery in stroke patients is seen in the first three months, but there are patients who continue to recover for up to a year or beyond.

Next Thursday, May 18, Eyewitness News Anchor Whitney Wetzel sits down with a stroke survivor, who really defied all the odds in her recovery process, and her husband, who’s also her caregiver. They’ll explain why family support is another important factor in the recovery process on Eyewitness News at 6:00.

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