Stroke Prevention Guidelines Issued

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- The National Stroke Association (NSA) has released the first set of expert recommendations on what the public can do to prevent stroke.

The Stroke Prevention Guidelines include warning signs of stroke and advice on how people can avoid stroke, the third leading cause of death in the US.

The guidelines are part of NSA's five-year public education campaign, "Stroke in America," which will include seminars, stroke screenings, and other community outreach programs designed to raise awareness of stroke symptoms as well as of preventive measures such as regular exercise and a low-sodium, low-fat diet.

"Stroke is... killing about 160,000 Americans each year," Dr. Ralph Sacco of the departments of neurology and public health at Columbia University in New York told reporters at a telephone press conference on Thursday. "About 700,000 people will have a new or recurrent stroke each year," he added, "and stroke incidence seems to be on the rise."

To reduce risk of stroke, the NSA offers these basic recommendations:

-- have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked annually;

-- if you are diabetic, follow your doctor's plan for controlling the disease;

-- if you smoke, quit;

-- if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation;

-- exercise regularly;

-- eat a diet low in sodium and low in fat;

-- report to your doctor symptoms such as occasional ringing in the ears, brief bouts of dizziness or vertigo, or sluggishness in the legs which may indicate potentially stroke-inducing circulation problems, and,

-- seek medical help immediately if you have any stroke symptoms, such as sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, sudden blurry vision, intense headache and dizziness.

"It is important to treat stroke like a medical emergency," Sacco stressed. "All... therapies are only effective if the patient is treated within three hours of onset."

The elderly, especially older women, and African-Americans are particularly at risk for death or disability from stroke, according to the NSA. But education about stroke prevention, Sacco emphasized, must extend beyond those at high risk or with established symptoms to everyone, starting in the early school years.

"It's not just screening, but changing lifestyle that is important," he said. "Healthier living for everyone now can reduce the large numbers of strokes that are occurring in this country."

For more information about the Stroke Prevention Guidelines and the Stroke in America campaign, contact the NSA at 1-800-787- 6537.

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