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Stopping strokes

Lifestyle holds the key to prevention

by Alison Brown



It occurs every 40 seconds in the United States. It might be a sudden, severe headache, a loss of vision, or perhaps even something more subtle. It is a stroke — the third leading cause of death in the country and the No. 1 cause of adult disability.


A stroke sometimes is referred to as a brain attack because it occurs when a blood vessel going to the brain bursts or is blocked by a clot, resulting in part of the brain losing its blood supply. Without blood, the brain begins to die.


According to the National Stroke Association, more than 795,000 strokes occur each year, and death from stroke is twice as likely in North Carolina as elsewhere in the country.


In fact, North Carolina makes up one of 11 states considered to be the Stroke Belt, a region with at least 10 percent more deaths from strokes than the national average. What’s worse is that we — along with Georgia and South Carolina — are considered the Belt Buckle, the very worst of the belt.


Prevention is key

Despite these statistics, up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Prevention begins with awareness. With the facts in hand, it’s time to take action. The National Stroke Association’s Stroke Prevention Guidelines are a great place to start.


Talk with your physician about how you can best use the following guidelines:


Know your blood pressure.

Find out if you have atrial fibrillation.

If you smoke, then quit.

If you drink alcohol, then do so in moderation.

Determine whether you have high cholesterol, and talk with your physician about how to manage it.

If you have diabetes, then follow your physician’s advice carefully to help control it.


Incorporate a lower-sodium, lower-fat diet.

Learn whether you have a circulation problem, and talk with your physician about how to manage it.

Know the symptoms of stroke.


Knowing the signs

A stroke is a medical emergency, and getting the proper attention quickly can lessen or prevent its lasting affects — and can even save a life. Look for slurred speech, the face drooping on one side, loss of balance, weakness or numbness on one side of the body, a sudden and severe headache, and total or partial vision loss. Knowing the signs and symptoms — and calling 911 immediately, even if symptoms subside — can mean the difference between life and death.


It’s been decades since North Carolina became part of the Stroke Belt Buckle, but that doesn’t sentence all of us to suffering a stroke. Remember that most strokes are preventable. By following the above guidelines, you can reduce your risk.


Share the guidelines and signs of stroke with your family and friends, and together we can loosen the Stroke Belt’s hold on North Carolina. 


Alison Brown is a marketing coordinator with Rex Healthcare in Raleigh. To learn more about the StrokeAware program or to complete a free online risk assessment, visit

Stroke 411

For more information on preventing a stroke, visit the following Web sites:


American Stroke Association,

National Stroke Association,

Rex Healthcare, (includes a free online risk assessment)

Tri-State Stroke Network,