By Greg McGriff, MD, TeamHealth Hospital Medicine

Research tells us stroke is responsible for 12 percent of all deaths worldwide, and it is the second leading cause of death after heart disease. High blood pressure and high cholesterol concentration are key risk factors for stroke for which effective medication is available.

Dr. McGriff

Dr. McGriff

Stroke can occur when blood supply to the brain is interrupted or blocked. Results may include loss of control over movement and impairment of perception, speech or other mental or bodily functions. Someone suffering stroke may even lose consciousness.

Nearly 75 percent of all strokes are triggered by a clot that forms in a blood vessel or a clot that travels through the bloodstream and becomes lodged in a vessel.

It is important that you treat symptoms of a possible stroke as an emergency by calling 911. If you are diagnosed as having what is called ischemic stroke you may be given clot-dissolving medicine that can increase your chances of recovery. Aspirin may also be given, and in some cases the clot may be removed in surgery rather than with medicine.

If you are treated for hemorrhagic stroke, efforts will be made to control bleeding, reduce pressure in the brain, and stabilize your vital signs, especially blood pressure. Surgery may be required to repair a ruptured brain aneurysm or lower pressure inside the head.

Your physician also will focus on helping you preventing another stroke. Diets, exercise and medicines to lower blood pressure are good first steps, as well as prescribing aspirin or another antiplatelet medicine. Controlling diabetes through oral medicines or insulin is important and getting a flu shot can help you avoid getting sick.

Certainly it is important to quit smoking, and to commit to eating heart-healthy foods and being more active. Rehabilitation programs also can help you regain abilities you may have lost. Although it’s not possible to predict how much ability you will regain, in many cases recovery occurs within the first three months, although skills like speech and balance may take as long as a year to rehabilitate.

Rutherford Regional Health System (RRHS) has many physicians and experts available to help you learn about stroke risks and treatments. RRHS can be reached by calling 828-286-5000. Learn more about RRHS at

Dr. McGriff practices inpatient hospitalist medicine at Rutherford Regional Health System in Rutherfordton, N.C.