Healthy Choices Can Prevent Stroke

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Unfortunately, even after evidence proving that smoking leads to disease and death, it still needs to be said: Stop, and preferably never start, smoking. Cessation of smoking is one of most important things a person can to do to prevent stroke or heart attack. I guarantee that people who continue to smoke will have a vascular event—a stroke or heart attack. The risk of stroke increases 10 times more when a person smokes cigarettes.

Even if people don’t follow the aforementioned tips, most people know them. Many, however, don’t know that they should have their blood pressure taken four times each year. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is prevalent in our region and it’s one of most devastating illnesses. People who don’t know they have high blood pressure, even those who don’t feel ill, could be dangerously hypertensive and at risk of stroke or heart attack.

Another thing that people need to know is that if they don’t control their blood pressure they may end up on dialysis. While it may sound drastic, it’s true that vascular disease can lead to kidney failure. I tell that to you because that fact seems to be the one that really gets my patients’ attention.

Once a vascular event has occurred, we can only delay the onset of the next event. We can’t reverse time, but we can delay future occurrences with a treatment plan that includes proper nutrition and weight management.

Patients often ask me, “How can I change after years of living like this?”

I tell them that within the power of each individual is the ability to take control of their own health and behavior— and none of it is costly. Eat correctly, exercise, manage weight, don’t smoke and make regular appointments with a doctor. Pay now or pay later.

For more information on prevention and the signs and symptoms of stroke visit www.strokeassociation. org. For a free online tool to help control risk factors for stroke visit

Dr. Michael Gebel is a boardcertified neurologist with the Bon Secours Neuroscience Center in Portsmouth. He is a member of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Medical Association. For more information, call 757-215-3565.