Doctor writing in medical chartEvery 40 seconds- nearly 800,000 times a year- someone in this country experiences a stroke. Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer. Strokes kill more than 143,000 Americans yearly. And perhaps more significantly, strokes are the leading cause of disability because they can result in paralysis, memory loss, speech problems, spasticity and pain. This issue is of great importance to me as a personal injury attorney because I have represented many stroke victims over the years whose strokes resulted from defective drugs and medical devices.

The good news is that scientists are discovering more effective ways to prevent and treat strokes. Harvard’s School of Public Health researchers have identified five lifestyle factors that can cut the risk of ischemic strokes (clots blocking the flow of blood to the brain) by 80% and all strokes (including hemorrhagic or blood vessel rupture) by 50%. The big 5 are:

  1. don’t smoke
  2. maintain a normal weight
  3. eat a prudent diet
  4. exercise regularly
  5. moderate alcohol consumption

Some additional measures to consider are taking statin mediations to lower LDL cholesterol, eating more fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids three or more times per week and drinking green or black tea daily.

It is extremely important for everyone, especially high-risk elderly and patients who have already experienced one stroke, to know the five stroke warning signs. If you experience one or more of the following signs you should call 911 immediately:

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, particularly if it is on one side of the body only
  2. Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
  3. Sudden visual disturbance in one or both eyes
  4. Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking
  5. Sudden dizziness, loss of balance, loss of coordination or difficulty walking.

Researchers have also found significant benefits and no increased risk for brain injury in people who were treated with TPA, a blood-thinning, clot-dissolving intravenous drug, up to four and a half hours after the onset of stroke symptoms. The lesson learned: get to the ER as quickly as possible upon onset of any of the stroke symptoms.