By  Anthony G. Alessi, MD – Healthy Rounds

May has been designated as National Stroke Awareness Month.
The study of the prevention and treatment of stroke is one of the most exciting subspecialties of neurology. Public recognition of the early symptoms and ways to avoid stroke have proven to be a big obstacle.

Statistics indicate that approximately three quarters of a million Americans will experience a stroke this year and a third of these will be recurrent. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

There are two types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic. A hemorrhagic stroke is the result of leakage from a blood vessel in the brain. An ischemic stroke is caused when a blood vessel in the brain is clogged and a portion of the brain is deprived of oxygen.

The most effective treatment of any medical condition is prevention. Risk factors for stroke are similar to those seen in other vascular conditions. Some common risk factors include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, smoking and a sedentary life style. Any effort toward controlling these elements has tremendous impact on overall health and longevity.

Early recognition of a stroke is imperative. New medications dubbed “clot busters” can stop a stroke as it is evolving if given within 4 1/2 hours after the onset of symptoms.

The eponym used to remember the critical signs of stroke are “FAST”:

1. Face- A person should be able to smile with equal strength on both sides of the face.

2. Arms- When stretching both arms forward with eyes closed for ten seconds the arms should remain equally elevated.

3. Speech- Repetition of a common phrase like, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” should be clear without slurring.

4. Time- The sooner these signs are recognized and treatment initiated, the better the chances are for complete recovery. For every hour without treatment during a stroke the brain ages 3.6 years.

A basic understanding of stroke and a “FAST” response can be life saving.

About the Author

Anthony G. Alessi, MD, MMM ,graduated from the University of Rome and completed his residency and neuromuscular fellowship at the University of Michigan. He is in private practice in Norwich, CT, specializing in neurology, electrodiagnosticmedicineand sports neurology. He is board-certified in neurology and electrodiagnostic medicine. Dr. Alessi received his Masters degree inMedicalManagement from the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University in 2001.

He serves as a neurologic consultant to many athletic organizations including the University of Connecticut Athletic Department, Norwich Free Academy and the Connecticut State Boxing Commission.Dr. Alessi also serves as neurologic consultant to the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, CT Sun (WNBA) and Hartford Colonials (UFL).

>He is medical director of the William W. Backus Hospital Stroke Center, writes a syndicated column, “HealthySports,” for the Norwich Bulletin and is host of “Neuro Frontiers” on Reach MD XM 160 and “Healthy Rounds,” syndicated through WTIC 1080, the Hartford CBS affiliate.

Dr. Alessi’s book, “Healthy Sports: A Doctor’sLessonsfor a Winning Lifestyle,” is a compilation of instructive columns.His most recent book, “Lift Up Your Hearts: Healing Haiti, Land of Hardship,” recounts the work of Dr. Alessi and other medical volunteers after the earthquake in Haiti.Reach him at www.alessimd.com.

 

 

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