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Health Team

Duke doctor: Simple changes can reduce risk of stroke

Posted December 2, 2010 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated December 3, 2010 6:26 p.m. EST

— Stroke is the third-leading cause of death and a major cause of adult disability. Almost 800,000 Americans have a stroke each year, but new guidelines are emphasizing simple lifestyle changes that can have a dramatic reduction in people’s risk of stroke.

“People taking charge of their own lives is particularly important for preventing stroke,” said Duke University neurologist Dr. Larry Goldstein.

Goldstein participated in writing new guidelines that emphasize lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of stroke. They include quitting smoking, controlling blood pressure, regular exercise, avoiding excess alcohol use and eating a well-balanced diet.

“Those things together are associated with a more than 80 percent reduction in the risk of a first stroke,” Goldstein said.

There are some screening measures for high-risk patients, such as looking for narrowing of the carotid artery in the neck, which can lead people to medical or surgical intervention to clear the blockage, thus preventing stroke. But when prevention fails, a person’s life depends on awareness.

The warning signs of a stroke include a sudden onset of a headache, slurred speech, weakness or numbness on one side and vision problems.