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Dear Editor:

A stroke happens when blood flow is cut off to an area of the brain or an artery in the brain bursts open. A stroke can have far-reaching effects — on your movement, your speech, your emotional health, your brain function and even how you swallow. In some cases, a stroke can lead to death or long-term disability.

The first hour after someone begins experiencing a stroke is the period when doctors are most successful in minimizing or reversing damage by restoring blood flow to the brain. Would you know what symptoms to watch for if you or someone you love was experiencing a stroke? May is National Stroke Awareness Month, so I encourage you to take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of stroke, using the acronym BE FAST: look for Balance difficulties, Eyesight changes, Face drooping, Arm weakness, or Speech difficulty. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s Time to call 9-1-1.

Stroke risk increases with age, but about 10 percent of the 800,000 strokes in the U.S. each year are in adults younger than 45. Researchers believe this is partly due to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure among younger adults. But there’s good news: these strokes are preventable. The same foods that help us keep our weight at a manageable level and prevent diabetes and heart disease can help prevent stroke, because heart health and stroke are closely linked. Focusing on nutrient-rich foods that are good for your heart, like fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains and low-fat dairy products can help cut your stroke risk.

Many health complications, including stroke, can be avoided by watching your diet, exercising more, cutting back on alcohol use and giving up cigarettes. But even with proper preventive steps, strokes will occur. And when they do, BE FAST. You could save a life.

Ramin Zand

Vascular neurologist

Geisinger

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