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Stroke Expert Offers Tips on Recognizing Warning Signs & Taking Steps to Reduce Stroke Risk

Brooklyn, NY (May 13, 2013) – Stroke kills over 133,000 Americans every year, is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and is a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability. At the Jaffe Stroke Center at Maimonides Medical Center, doctors and trained staff are on-hand 24/7 to evaluate and treat a stroke. During the month of May, experts at the Jaffe Stroke Center would like to take the opportunity to highlight the importance of preventing strokes, as well as to teach people the early warning signs, so that if someone is having a stroke, medical intervention can start as soon as possible.

“Every second counts in the race to identify and treat stroke,” said Dr. Steven Rudolph, Director of the Jaffe Stroke Center at Maimonides Medical Center. “The sooner we can make a diagnosis and start treatment, the more we improve our chances of minimizing damage to the brain. Stroke can happen to anyone at any time. All of us should take a few minutes to learn the warning signs of stroke, so if we suspect someone may be experiencing this medical emergency, we can help by calling 911 right away.”

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked or bursts. A blocked vessel prevents necessary blood and oxygen from reaching the brain. A burst blood vessel causes blood to accumulate and compress brain tissue. In both instances, the affected part of the brain starts to die. Stroke treatment depends on the type of stroke, among other factors.  

From 1998 to 2008, with the assistance of newer, more advanced technologies, the annual stroke death rate fell by approximately 35% and the actual number of deaths fell by 19%. However, it is necessary to learn the most common symptoms of stroke, as every second counts when dealing with this medical emergency. The American Stroke Association lists the most common symptoms of stroke as: sudden weakness in the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding; sudden dizziness, trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination; and/or a sudden severe headache with no apparent cause.

The National Stroke Association offers a helpful tool to help remember these symptoms and respond quickly – the acronym FAST, which stands for Face, Arms, Speech and Time. If you suspect a stroke is occurring, ask your loved one to smile, raise both arms, and repeat a simple sentence. If one side of the face droops, one arm drifts downward, the words are slurred or the sentence is not repeated correctly, call 911 immediately.

While some of the risk factors for stroke are hereditary, others are not. This means that each one of us can reduce vulnerability to stroke by being aware of our risk factors, including medical history and personal habits. Some risks can be reduced by living a healthier, more active lifestyle. Dr Rudolph advises

  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Eat a varied and balanced diet that relies heavily on vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats and fruit.
  • Keep your weight under control.
  • Identify Atrial Fibrillation, and have the condition monitored (if applicable).
  • Monitor your blood cholesterol: you should try to lower the “Lousy” kind known as LDL, and increase the “Happy” kind known as HDL.
  • Get moderate exercise on a regular basis (at least two and a half hours per week).
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Treat circulation problems.
  • Consult your doctor if you have a family history of stroke or high blood pressure to determine if you need additional assistance in prevention efforts.

“It’s critical that all of us pay attention to our risk factors and do everything we can to eat right, exercise, and take other measures that will reduce our chances of suffering a stroke,” added Rudolph. “Prevention is still our most effective weapon.”

The Jaffe Stroke Center at Maimonides provides expert care to patients in a dedicated stroke unit, reducing stroke-related complications and ensuring patients obtain the best possible functional outcome. Dr. Rudolph, a renowned stroke neurologist, works closely with physicians and nurses in emergency medicine, radiology, vascular and neurosurgery, intensive care and rehabilitation medicine to provide a full range of technologically advanced diagnostic and treatment services.  

In 2005, Maimonides was designated a Stroke Center by the New York State Department of Health, and was fully accredited by the Joint Commission. The Jaffe Stroke Center at Maimonides has been re-certified by the Joint Commission with Full Accreditation. The center was also recently awarded the Gold Plus Award for excellence in performance from the American Stroke Association's "Get With the Guidelines" Program. In addition, it has been named to the “Target: Stroke” Honor Roll – one of only 290 hospitals in the United States to achieve this recognition.

Maimonides Medical Center is Brooklyn’s pre-eminent health care provider and a recipient of the Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence. According to the federal government, Maimonides is one of only 22 hospitals in the nation to achieve outstanding patient outcomes in all three categories of care that are measured annually: heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia. Widely recognized for its major achievements in advancing medical and information technology, Maimonides has 711 beds and over 70 subspecialty programs. For additional information on the nationally recognized clinical services at Maimonides Medical Center, please click here.

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