Stroke neurologist Sarah Song, MD, MPH, often sees people who have recently had a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA, or mini-stroke) or have been told they're at risk.
Here are the questions on their minds — and Song's answers:
I survived a stroke. How can I avoid another?
Several approaches can help prevent an ischemic stroke, which occurs when either the brain's blood supply is suddenly blocked by a clot or a blood vessel bleeds within the brain, Song explains. It's important to address lifestyle habits as well as other risk factors. According to Song, patients who have had a previous stroke should work with their physicians to do the following:
- Take medicine to help prevent clots.
- Control conditions that make a stroke more likely to occur, such as high blood pressure; diabetes; high cholesterol; or heart conditions, such as abnormal heart rhythms and congestive heart failure.
- Quit smoking.
To improve blood supply to the brain, some patients may also need to have surgery or other intervention to remove fatty plaque deposits causing narrowing in one of the carotid arteries in their neck.
I've had a TIA — what can I do?
Another type of patient she sees is one who has had a transient ischemic attack. Stroke and TIA involve the same symptoms, but a TIA lasts less than a day, usually minutes to an hour. Just like having had a previous stroke, a TIA is a serious warning. "People who have TIAs are more likely to go on to have strokes," Song says. "It's an opportunity to intervene and take the steps outlined above to try to prevent a stroke from occurring."
What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke or TIA?
These can include weakness or numbness on one side, sudden vision problems, confusion, dizziness and difficulty communicating. Song stresses timing is critical when you suspect a stroke. "Don't hesitate; just call 911," she says. "The sooner you can get to an emergency room, the sooner you can be evaluated for treatment."
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