The Neglected RX for Stroke


ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Every year, almost 800 thousand Americans suffer a stroke. The blood vessels in and around the brain become clogged or burst and brain cells begin to die. Forty percent of stroke survivors have a second stroke within five years. Doctors say most recurrent strokes can be avoided and the key to prevention may be very simple.

Charles “Nick” Sparks loves spending time out and about with his wife Liz. But just last year, this 74-year-old had trouble walking. Doctors say he got a check-up just in time.

“All of the stroke doctors had difficulty understanding why I had not had a stroke.” Said Sparks.

The arteries in Spark’s legs and leading up to his brain were dangerously narrowing. Doctors performed angioplasty to clear the clogged arteries. Doctor Fadi Nahab is the stroke medical director and a Neurologist at Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown. He says one critical factor is being overlooked.

“Exercise is the neglected prescription.” explained Dr. Nahab.

Dr. Nahab was the lead investigator at Emory for the Sammpris trial. It studied the recovery of patients who had mini-strokes and found those who were physically inactive were six times as likely to have another stroke. Dr. Nahab tells patients to walk working up to 150 minutes every week of moderate exercise such as a brisk walk or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise such as jogging or running.

“If you were talking to somebody, you wouldn’t be able to say a full sentence without taking a breath.” Dr. Nahab continued.

The exercise can be broken up into smaller sessions several times a day. Nick’s exercising daily now for the first time in his life.

“As I begin to do those little things on the side, they are just as beneficial as going to the gym every day.” Said Sparks.

And now those little things are this doctor’s orders.

Dr. Nahab says regular exercise along with dietary changes and prescribed medication is making all the difference.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

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REPORT #2453

BACKGROUND: A stroke can happen when blood flow to your brain stops. Brain cells begin to die within minutes. The more common kind of stroke is called ischemic stroke, where a blood clot blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. Hemorrhagic is another kind of stroke, where a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into the brain. “Mini-strokes”, or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), occur when the blood supply to the brain is briefly interrupted. Common symptoms of a stroke are numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body); confusion, trouble speaking; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination. The blood vessels that carry oxygen throughout our body are called arteries. They go to your brain as well as the tips of your toes. Healthy arteries have smooth inner walls which blood can flow easily through. Some people, however, develop clogged arteries. Clogged arteries result from a buildup of a substance called plaque on the inner walls. Arterial plaque can reduce blood flow or, in some instances, block it altogether. Clogged arteries greatly increase the likelihood of heart attack, stroke, and even death.

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STROKE TREATMENT: Treatment for a stroke depends on whether you’ve had an ischemic stroke or a hemorrhagic stroke. Therapy with clot-busting drugs must start within 3 hours if they are given into the vein.

Complications may be reduced and chances of survival increased if treatment is started quickly. With an ischemic stroke, aspirin is an immediate treatment given in the emergency room to reduce the likelihood of having another stroke. It also helps prevent blood clots from forming. Treatment for a hemorrhagic stroke focuses on controlling your bleeding and reducing pressure in the brain. Surgery may be performed to help reduce future risk. If a patient takes Coumadin, or anti-platelet drugs, to prevent blood clots, they may be given drugs or transfusions of blood products to counteract the blood thinners’ effects. Drugs to lower pressure in the brain, lower your blood pressure, prevent vasospasm or prevent seizures, may also be given. Following emergency treatment, stroke care focuses on helping you regain your strength, recover as much function as possible and return to independent living. Most stroke survivors receive treatment in a rehabilitation program.


RECURRENT STROKE RX: You are at greater risk of having a recurrent stroke if you have experienced an initial stroke. Research shows of the 795,000 Americans who experience a stroke each year, about 185,000 of those strokes are recurrent strokes. There is a higher rate of death and disability with recurrent strokes because parts of the brain already injured by the original stroke may not be as resilient. However, 80% of secondary strokes can be prevented by a combination of lifestyle changes and medical interventions. Once you have identified the causes of your first stroke with a healthcare professional, you can then find ways to gain control so that you can be active in preventing a recurrent stroke. There are several preventative measures like stop smoking, managing high blood pressure, eating a healthy diet, managing high cholesterol, and most importantly beginning or increasing your physical activity.


* For More Information, Contact:

 Fadi Nahab, MD                                                                     Robin Reese

Neurologist, Stroke Medical Director                                     Director of Communications

Emory University Hospital                                                      Emory University Hospital