MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – May is Stroke Awareness Month, and neurologists want patients to understand that most strokes may be prevented.

1 in 20 adult deaths are due to strokes, which are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.
Stroke is a term that physicians use when a part of the brain is damaged because of a problem with blood flow.

Strokes can happen when:

• An artery going to the brain gets clogged or closes off, and part of the brain goes without blood for too long. This accounts for approximately 85% of all strokes.

• An artery breaks open and starts bleeding into or around the brain.

The effects of a stroke depend on several factors, including which part of the brain is affected and how quickly the stroke is treated.

“Stroke symptoms range from minor with no significant lasting effects to causing significant disability or death, said Paul Johnson, MD, stroke neurologist and medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Program at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. “For example, some people become partly paralyzed or are unable to speak. The most common stroke symptoms are sudden weakness in the face or arms and/or inability to speak, but strokes can cause many other symptoms as well.”

Most strokes are caused by treatable risk factors, and are therefore preventable. The main stroke risk factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and cigarette use. Another common cause of stroke is untreated atrial fibrillation.

Healthy lifestyle choices such as regular exercise and a healthy diet could prevent ¾ of strokes.
A healthy diet, specifically the Mediterranean diet, with very few fried foods, sweets or red meat, and with more chicken, fish, vegetables, nuts and fruits, has been found to reduce the risk of stroke. Limiting salt can also lower your blood pressure.

Physical activity protects the heart and brain, and reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease and dementia. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week.

Quick medical treatment during a stroke is one of the most important factors in determining a good outcome. If a stroke does occur, there are treatments available to prevent long term brain injury, but are very time sensitive.

Stroke treatments are focused on restoring blood flow to the brain to prevent brain tissue from dying due to lack of blood flow. Treatments include a blood clot dissolving medication called tPA and a procedure that uses a catheter to pull blood clots out of large arteries in the brain. Both treatments can significantly reduce disability, but are very time sensitive.

The Intermountain Health team of specialists continues to develop protocols to shorten the amount of time it takes to diagnose and treat a stroke. This is important because a quick diagnosis and treatment can mean less long-term damage, less disability, and better overall outcomes.

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Sponsored by Intermountain Health.