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Stroke prevention: The most important things to know

September 22, 2017

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of adult disability. How much do you know about stroke and how to prevent it?

True or False?

  • People with sleep apnea have an increased risk of having a stroke.

True. “I always screen my patients for sleep apnea after they’ve had a stroke, and I refer them to a sleep study if needed,” said Dr. Jon Durrani, D.O., a neurologist with the Dayton Center for Neurological Disorders. “If left untreated, sleep apnea markedly increases one’s risk for heart attack and stroke.”

In fact, findings of a study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood institute of The National Institutes of Health support that obstructive sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of stroke in middle-aged and older adults. In men, sleep apnea more than doubles the risk of stroke.

  • There is a strong correlation between atrial fibrillation (AFib) and stroke.

True. “There is a very strong connection between atrial fibrillation and stroke, and it’s why we are so aggressive with identifying patients with AFib,” said Dr. Durrani. “We will now do long-term monitoring with implantable devices that can monitor a patient for years, if needed.”

  • Quick action is vital, so you should drive a potential stroke patient to the hospital ER immediately.

False: While it is true that quick action is critical, if a stroke is suspected, call 9-1-1 immediately. By doing this, not only will assessment by qualified health professionals begin right away in the ambulance, but a medical team of doctors and nurses will be prepped and ready when you arrive at the ER.

  • I’m only in my 20s -- strokes only happen to older people with hypertension.

False: A stroke can happen to anyone at any age. “Something that is not well-known about strokes today is that there is actually a rise in strokes in the younger crowd – particularly the 20-to-30-year-old population,” said Dr. Durrani. While the reason for this rise in the incidence of stroke among younger Americans isn’t clear, experts believe it could be caused by the rise in childhood obesity with associated diabetes and hypertension.

“This increase is very concerning, as it is disabling many young adults,” said Dr. Durrani, who has treated a 21-year-old for stroke. “However, with an increased level of stroke awareness, these patients are receiving immediate stroke care.”

  • I am not a fanatic about eating healthy, I don’t have time to exercise, and I smoke but only occasionally. I don’t have any health issues, so it’s really not a big deal.

False: Whether you are in your 20s, 40s, or 60s, lifestyle choices you make today will affect your brain health as you age. Smoking any amount is bad for you — period. Eating healthy, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking any prescribed medications as directed will significantly help reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Said Dr. Durrani. “Ultimately, I want to keep my patients as healthy as possible, for as long as possible, and help them to live long, healthy, happy lives.”

Kettering Health Network is hosting “Stroke of Art,” a stroke awareness and prevention event on Thursday, Oct. 19, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Soin Medical Center. The stroke education is free, but attendees are encouraged to stick around for the art! For a nominal fee, participants will enjoy an instructor-guided art class, with a portion of the proceeds going directly to the American Stroke Association.