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Common Medical Conditions That Put You at Higher Risk for Stroke

By |2024-05-10T08:17:01-04:00January 26th, 2016|Categories: Cardiology, Neuroscience|Tags: , , |

A 49-year-old male with diabetes and high blood pressure arrived at CentraState Medical Center’s Emergency Department by ambulance with rapidly fluctuating stroke symptoms. In seconds, he had lost all strength in his right side and was unable to speak. The Primary Stroke Center team quickly confirmed he was having a stroke and began administering treatment within a few minutes of his arrival. Just hours later, the patient’s symptoms had subsided. A few days later, he walked out of the hospital with no neurological damage.

As a neurologist specializing in stroke diagnosis and treatment, I wish I could say the majority of stroke patients achieve this positive outcome, but the reality is, more often than not, this is not the case.

As a neurologist specializing in stroke diagnosis and treatment, I wish I could say the majority of stroke patients achieve this positive outcome, but the reality is, more often than not, this is not the case.

Although stroke risk increases with age, strokes can—and do—occur at any age. People with certain chronic medical conditions are at markedly higher risk.

Six chronic medical conditions that increase your stroke risk:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Obesity
  • Tobacco use

The five symptoms you should know

Keep in mind, these symptoms may come on suddenly, without warning:

  • Weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Trouble speaking, understanding or slurred speech
  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache

Reacting to stroke symptoms can save a life

The patient I described made a few crucial decisions which eventually decreased potentially debilitating stroke after-effects:

  • After he suddenly experienced weakness on his right side, his family dialed 911 immediately rather than wait to see if symptoms subsided.
  • His hospital emergency care included a specially-trained Stroke Alert team who quickly diagnosed the stroke.
  • The hospital specialized in the rapid administration of tissue plasminogen activator (commonly known as “tPA”) which was administered within 4.5 hours of the onset of the stroke.

The importance of emergency medical treatment

Strokes occur when the artery in the brain is blocked or clogged by hardening of the arteries or from a clot that travels from somewhere in the body to the brain.

Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is the FDA-approved first-line treatment but it must be administered by injection within four and a half hours from the onset of the symptoms. The drug rapidly dissolves the clot and re-opens blood flow to the part or parts of the brain being deprived. Patients who receive tPA have a significantly higher probability of a better neurological outcome.

In my work, I have been told by countless stroke patients and their loved ones that they wished they had sought emergency medical care sooner and not waited. I urge you to be fully aware of stroke signs and symptoms, particularly if you are at higher risk. Have an action plan in place that begins with calling an ambulance if any of these symptoms are present.

Advanced stroke treatment and rehabilitation services available in Freehold

CentraState Medical Center is certified as an advanced Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission and New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. The Center features a specially-trained 24/7 “Stroke Alert” response team to assess Emergency Department patients and initiate an immediate treatment protocol, including tPA, if necessary. To learn more, call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727) or visit

The OceanFirst Rehabilitation Center, located at The Star and Barry Tobias Ambulatory Campus, offers comprehensive inpatient and outpatient stroke and neurological rehabilitative therapy services. For more information, call (732) 294-2700.

stroke treatment freehold njDr. Ware is a board-certified neurologist, clinical neurophysiologist and vascular neurologist on staff at CentraState Medical Center. He can be reached at Bucks Mercer Neurology in Freehold Township, Monmouth County, at 732-786-3191.

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