Amanda L.Senatore P.A.-C

Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every three to four minutes, someone dies of stroke. (Center for Disease Control - CDC)

Scary, but true. Educating yourself on stroke prevention may be the one thing that keeps you from ending up as one of the statistics. East Carolina Neurology’s new Stroke Prevention Clinic is the resource you need to find out if you’re at risk, and, if so, to educate yourself on the proper steps to maintain a lifestyle to ward off a stroke. Amanda Senatore, P.A.-C, heads up the ECN Stroke Prevention Clinic, and will be the medical staff who meets with you for your work-up and medical history.

Stroke in North Carolina

North Carolina is part of the "Stroke Belt", a group of 8-12 states that have increased stroke death rates, when compared to the rest of the United States. Eastern North Carolina is included in a smaller region called the "Stroke Buckle". This area is considered to be have the highest death rates from stroke in the country. According to the North Carolina Stroke Association inside the "Stroke Belt", stroke death rates are two times higher than the national average.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is essentially a brain attack. It is the result of a lack of blood flow to the brain, caused by blockage (called an ischemic stroke), or the rupturing of a blood vessel in the brain (called a hemorrhagic stroke). There are many different causes of stroke, including medical conditions, hereditary conditions and/or lifestyle behaviors. While there are many causes of stroke, there are also many ways to prevent a stroke, including living a healthy lifestyle and preventing/treating certain pre-determined medical conditions.

Types of Stroke

Ischemic – Ischemic strokes are caused by a lack of blood flow to and from the brain caused by a blockage. The blockage can be caused by blood clots or fatty deposits (plaque).

Hemorrhagic – Hemorrhagic strokes are less common and occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing pressure on the brain tissue.

Medical Conditions

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) – a major risk factor of stroke, if left untreated. A doctor should check blood pressure at least once a year. If necessary; there are medications that can be prescribed to help lower blood pressure.

High Cholesterol – A high cholesterol level is a major risk factor of stroke. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in the blood. The body produces cholesterol, but it is also in many foods. A simple blood test is needed to check your cholesterol, and if it is high, there are medications that can be used to help lower your cholesterol levels.

Heart Disease – There are many heart conditions that increase the risk of stroke, including: coronary artery disease, heart valve defects, irregular heartbeat, enlarged heart chambers and atrial fibrillation. All of these conditions increase the risk of blood clots being formed in the chest cavity and traveling to the brain, causing a stroke.

Diabetes – Diabetes is a risk factor of stroke and can cause the long-term effects of a stroke to be worse than in a patient without diabetes. Having diabetes is generally coupled with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Obesity – Being overweight increases the risk of stroke, because cholesterol levels and blood pressure increases, as well as the possibility of developing diabetes, all significant risk factors of stroke.

Previous Stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack) – Having a previous stroke or TIA increases the chances of having another stroke. A TIA is an episode of stroke-like symptoms that usually cause no permanent damage.

Sickle Cell Disease – Sickle Cell Disease mainly affects African-American and Hispanic children. If a group of sickle cells get caught in a blood vessel, it can cause an ischemic stroke. Approximately 10% of children with sickle cell disease will have a stroke.

Hereditary Conditions

Family History – If there is a family history of stroke, there is an increased chance of having a stroke. This can be caused by behavioral similarities, or by genetics.

Age and Gender – Men are more likely to have a stroke, but women are more likely to die from a stroke. With the increase of age, comes an increased risk of stroke. However, anyone can potentially have a stroke.

Race and Ethnicity – Along with African Americans and Hispanics, American Indians and Alaskan Natives have a greater risk of having a stroke than do non-Hispanic whites or Asians.


Tobacco – The effects of smoking include damage to the blood vessels, and premature hardening of the arteries. Smoking also causes a reduced amount of oxygen in the blood, resulting in a reduced amount of oxygen to the brain, which is damaging over time and can increase risk of stroke.

Alcohol – Drinking an unhealthy amount of alcohol increases blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which, in turn, increases the risk of stroke. Drinking one alcoholic beverage a day may actually decrease your risk of stroke.

Physical Inactivity – Not getting the proper exercise leads to weight gain, which, in turn, leads to increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Unhealthy Eating – Eating a diet high in sodium, cholesterol and fat increases the risk of stroke and can also lead to diabetes.

Stroke Symptoms (from National Stroke Association)
-Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body
-Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
-Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
-Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
-Sudden severe headache with no known cause

It is important to take note of the time when the first symptoms of stroke appear. There is a FDA – approved clot buster. If given within three hours of first symptoms, it
dramatically reduces the chances of severe disability after a stroke.

Stroke Prevention
Treating hypertension (high blood pressure) can reduce the risk of a stroke up to 40%. (World Health Organization)

Ways to Prevent Stroke
-Moderate exercise at least 5 times a week (Minimum of 30 minutes per day).
-Eat a diet low in calories, salt, trans and saturated fats, and cholesterol.
-Eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
-Quit smoking, or if you don’t smoke, don’t start.
-Limit alcohol consumption to one glass a day.
-Treat any medical conditions you have properly (high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes).
-Visit your doctor regularly for check-ups.

Up to 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented – National Stroke Association




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