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Doc Talk: Raising awareness about strokes

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May is American Stroke Month, and those who have survived strokes are taking the time to raise awareness about how harmful but also how preventable they can be.

Many people assume strokes only happen to older people, but they can happen to people of any age, including children, and it all comes back to blood pressure.

As Andrew Brown threw the first pitch at May 5th’s Senators game, he couldn’t help but think how lucky he was to even be alive, let alone pitching at a baseball game.

“It wasn’t until I really started losing my speech that I realized, “Oh my God, this must be what a stroke is,” said stroke survivor Andrew Brown.

Brown was only in his late 30’s, but he was having a stroke. He says he was relatively healthy but had high blood pressure and hadn’t been regularly checking it. Then one day, his right hand went numb.

“I had one of my coworkers drive me to urgent care but on the way, we realized this was not something for urgent care. It was getting worse and worse,” said Brown.

He went to the hospital, where medications helped bring down his blood pressure, but by then, he couldn’t walk or talk. It took months of rehabilitation before he was back to normal.

“They started doing speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical rehab right away,” said Brown.

“It’s that time frame, first three months post-stroke that are most significant,” said Holy Spirit Stroke Coordinator MaryAnn Brogden-Brandt.

Holy Spirit Stroke Coordinator MaryAnn Brogden-Brandt says strokes happen when brain cells lose oxygen and begin to die. The main risk factor is when blood pressure is higher than 120 over 80.

“It puts a lot of pressure on the vessels that take blood to our brain,” said Brogden-Brandt.

But to keep blood pressure normal and prevent strokes, it all comes down to diet, exercise and not smoking. These are all things that Andrew Brown is doing now.

“I’m eating a lot better. I’m running and I’ve been back to work and doing a good job,” said Brown.

Signs of a stroke are easy to remember with the acronym FAST. “F” is for changes in the face, including blurred vision. “A” is for weakness or numbness in either of your arms. “S” is for speech which may be affected. “T” is for time. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to go to the hospital as soon as possible for treatment. It could save your life.

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