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New Guidelines for Stroke Prevention

American Stroke Association Highlights Ways People Can Lower Their Risk of Stroke

More Who Might Be at Risk

Sleep-disordered breathing, such as in sleep apnea, also appears to increase stroke risk. This suspected link led to the recommendation that people with excessive daytime sleepiness and who may snore loudly each night be evaluated for the condition and get treatment if they have it.

"We know that treating sleep apnea is associated with a reduction of blood pressure," Goldstein says. "And although we don't have direct evidence that (treatment) will reduce stroke risk, the feeling is that it will. But that is not yet supported by randomized trials."

Other prevention efforts that may reduce stroke risk include:

  • Limiting alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks a day if you are a man and one drink a day if you are a woman. Avoiding illicit drug use.
  • Taking low-dose aspirin if you are a woman at high risk for stroke. Aspirin has been shown to reduce heart attack risk in men, but the stroke data are less conclusive. No one should take aspirin for prevention without first discussing it with their doctor, however.
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy should not be used for prevention of stroke.

 

The Importance of Quick Action

If you think you are having a stroke or someone around you is, call 911 immediately, not your doctor, Goldstein says.

Time is critical, and the quicker a stroke victim gets to a hospital the better his or her chances of surviving and recovering.

Clot-busting drugs used to treat ischemic stroke (stroke from a blood clot) can only work if they are given within three hours of the onset of symptoms.

"If someone is having a stroke there is nothing that can be done in their doctor's office and there is nothing that patients can do at home," Goldstein says.

Symptoms of stroke can include, but are not limited to:

  • A sudden, severe headache.
  • Sudden vision disturbance or vision loss.
  • Trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Weakness or numbness of the body, especially on one side of the body.

"Even within that three-hour time frame, the quicker someone gets treatment the better," Goldstein says. "The brain likes blood and oxygen, and the longer it goes without them the lower the chances that they will fully recover."

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