On livewellnebraska.com: Use our Health Risk Assessment tool. Click here, then on the Stroke link.
* * *
Strokes seem to attack without reason, but a variety of risk factors explain why many of them occur.
Nebraska Medical Center physicians and staffers evaluated individuals' stroke risks and gave advice Friday at a free clinic.
Helen McGill of Council Bluffs visited the clinic because she was worried. McGill, 77, said three of her friends have suffered strokes, including one who was writing a birthday card for McGill when the stroke struck, and the handwriting tailed off down the side of the card.
McGill has high cholesterol and can't take drugs to fight it because she has side effects from them. She was advised to monitor her blood pressure, get more exercise and take a vitamin called Niacin.
“I'm at an age where I find this very scary,” McGill said of stroke risk.
A stroke occurs when a clot halts blood from flowing to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in or near the brain bursts. Either kind of stroke damages the brain.
Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death, behind heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease. Roughly 130,000 Americans die each year of stroke.
Among the risk factors: High blood pressure, the most common cause; smoking; high cholesterol; excessive drinking; diabetes; inactivity; being overweight; and having had a prior stroke.
The signs that a person is having a stroke include sudden severe headache, sudden weakness on one side, sudden trouble speaking and sudden difficulty walking or seeing.
Dr. Pierre Fayad, a University of Nebraska Medical Center neurologist, said it's vital that a person suffering stroke symptoms get help as soon as possible. A clot-busting drug can cure some patients and minimize damage in others, but it must be administered within three hours of the stroke or a bit more. Fayad is president of the Midwest affiliate of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
“That's our biggest problem,” Fayad said of getting stroke victims immediate help. “We don't have a lot of time to waste.”
Contact the writer: