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Warning Signs & Tips for Stroke Prevention

What is a stroke ?
Most strokes are caused by a blockage in an artery that carries blood to thebrain. This can cause that part of the brain to be damaged, and you may losecontrol of a function that is controlled by that part of the brain. Forexample, you could lose the use of an arm or leg, or the ability to speak.The damage can be temporary or permanent, partial or complete. Doctors havefound that if you get treatment right away after symptoms start, there is abetter chance of getting the blood moving to your brain, and less chance of damage.

How do I know if I'm having a stroke ?
If you have any of the following symptoms, call for emergency helpimmediately. The sooner you get help, the more doctors can do to preventfurther or permanent damage.
* Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of thebody
* Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye
* Loss of speech, trouble talking or understanding what others are saying
* Sudden severe headache with no known cause
* Unexplained dizziness, unstable walking or falling, especially along withany of the other symptoms

Another warning sign of a stroke is called a transient ischemic attack(TIA). A TIA is a "mini-stroke" that can cause the symptoms listed aboveand may only last a few minutes, but should not be ignored. People who havea TIA are at greater risk of having a stroke later. Call your doctorimmediately if you think you are having a TIA.

Risk factors for a stroke
* Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
* Uncontrolled diabetes* High blood pressure
* High cholesterol level* Smoking
* Previous transient ischemic attack (TIA)
* Heart disease
* Carotid artery disease (the artery that carries blood to your brain)

How can I avoid having a stroke ?
Talk to your family doctor about your risk factors for a stroke and how toreduce your risk. Here are some other things you can do to avoid having astroke :
* If your blood pressure is high, follow your doctor's advice to control it.
* Avoid foods that are high in fat and cholesterol, and eat less sodium(salt), to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
* If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar level under control.
* Limit how much alcohol you drink.
* Quit smoking. If you don't smoke, don't start.

Ask your doctor for advice on making these lifestyle changes, and askfriends and family for support. Regular checkups are important to findproblems that can increase your risk of having a stroke. Talk to your doctorabout whether taking aspirin in low doses would help reduce your risk ofstroke or TIA. Aspirin can help keep your blood from forming clots that caneventually block the arteries. (AAFP)

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