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Health Buzz: Keep the Blood Flowing

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According to Dr. Gerald Kufner of Kingston Neurological Associates, less than three percent of all patients who experience a stroke go to the emergency room for treatment in a timely fashion. A stroke is the rapid loss of functioning owing to a disturbance in blood flow to the brain. Because a stroke is less painful and fear-inspiring than, for example, a heart attack, people who experience a stroke are more likely to decide to “wait it out” until the next morning, or until a scheduled doctor’s appointment. Almost no one seeks treatment within the first few hours, which is when the most can be done for it. “It’s very important not to wait until the morning—call 911, get to the ER,” Kufner advises. “Within the first hour or so after the onset of a stroke, we can use tPA.” (Tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, is a drug that dissolves the blood clot and restores blood flow to the area.) Even a “minor” stroke should be taken seriously. A transient ischemic attack is a brief weakness, numbness, or speech impairment that, 30 percent of the time, is followed by a—preventable—stroke within 90 days. If you have high blood pressure, don’t wait until you have a stroke to do something about it. More than 700,000 strokes occur in America each year; if high-risk individuals were to take preventative measures, that number could be reduced by more than 20 percent, according to Kufner. Even just taking a daily aspirin, which suppresses the production of platelets in the blood, can reduce stroke risk by 30 percent.

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