Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - GMC - 27

27

How to
Protect
Yourself
from Stroke

When it comes to strokes,
Rizwan Bashir, MD, a
Northside Hospital
neurologist, has good
news. "Significant clinical
studies have indicated
that most strokes are
preventable," he says.
Here's what you can do
to stay healthy.
Treat chronic conditions. Dr. Bashir says high
blood pressure might
be the most significant
one, as it's threatening
to both the brain and
the heart. Other issues
to monitor and address
include diabetes and
high cholesterol.
Don't smoke. Even one
cigarette a day has been
shown to increase stroke
risk. Smoking thickens
the blood, increasing the
chances that it will clot
and block blood flow.

immediate attention is needed to control
high blood pressure, which can worsen the
bleeding, or to have potential neurosurgical
treatment in severe cases.

Aparicio: When emergency responders arrive,

PHOTO BY STOCKSY

ILLUSTRATION BY MONICA HELLSTRÖM

If someone might be
having a stroke, I know to call
911. What happens next?

they'll quickly take the person to a hospital,
ideally one that has experience treating stroke
patients. The most immediate goal of treatment is to get blood flowing to the brain again.
Within minutes of arrival at the hospital,
emergency department physicians will
evaluate the person and perform a CT scan
of the brain. The first thing they figure out
is whether the person is still within the time

Maintain a healthy
weight. Knowing that
obesity contributes
to stroke risk, both
the American Heart
Association and Northside
Hospital recommend a
low-sodium diet rich in
fruits, vegetables, whole
grains, and lean or plantbased protein.
Move your body.
Regular workouts have
been shown to prevent
stroke, heart attack and
dementia. "Even light
exercise, like routinely
walking a few times each
week, can be invaluable
to your long-term health,"
Dr. Bashir says.

window to receive an intravenous medication
called tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator,
to break up blood clots in the brain. This is
ideally administered within the first 30 to
60 minutes of arrival.
The team may also do a study to look at
the arteries going to the brain to see if there's
a blockage that can be reopened through a
catheterization procedure. Some patients can
go on to get that procedure, where a wire is
threaded into a vessel in the groin and up
through the body to the brain. An interventionalist physician can use a device to physically remove the blockage that's causing the
symptoms. Multiple clinical trials have shown
that this can really improve people's symptoms
and decrease the risk of dying.

What happens after this
critical treatment?

Aparicio: The patient is closely monitored in
the hospital-sometimes in the intensive care
unit, if the person had a severe stroke and may
need to be intubated to support breathing,
for example. The patient usually stays in the
hospital for a day or two or longer, depending
on how severe the stroke was. During this
time, doctors do an extensive evaluation to
find out why the stroke occurred, because
for somebody who's had a stroke, it's really
important to prevent another one-the risk of
a second stroke is greatly increased by having
a first one. The patient is also evaluated for
rehabilitation services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy,
depending on what faculties were affected
by the stroke.

Can you describe the
difference between getting
timely treatment and waiting?

Aparicio: Someone might arrive with really
severe weakness on one side of the body,
perhaps not even being able to move the
arm or the leg. With proper treatment right
away, some of these patients are able to walk
again pretty soon after the stroke. Without
prompt treatment, patients can be seriously
and permanently disabled and not be able
to live independently again, or have a risk
of dying, especially within the first 30 days
after the stroke. *
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - GMC

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