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Why Say No To Stroke?
On Labor Day in 2009 while many of you were barbecuing I was in the operating room removing a large blood clot from someone’s brain. The patient was in her early 50s and overweight. Her family suspected that she had high blood pressure but she had not seen a doctor in decades. She arrived home with the groceries and her daily pack of cigarettes. But instead of firing up the grill she collapsed, suddenly unable to speak or move her right side. In the ambulance on the way to the emergency room she started to lose consciousness. A brain CT scan showed a large hemorrhage. I quickly took her to the operating room and removed this blood clot. Although she survived and woke up after the surgery she was unable to talk or write, could not understand others or read, and could not move her right side.
Why did this have to happen? Everyone and every body is different. Each set of circumstances is unique but there are certain factors that contributed to my patient’s bleed. Significant overweight. High blood pressure. Smoking. Never seeing a doctor. I am a neurosurgeon and my job is to operate on the brain but I often wish I had seen patients like this long before meeting them in the operating room. During my 22 years in practice I have stressed more and more to my patients the importance of preventive care for their brains, their spines and their bodies.
Our brain is connected to the rest of our body. The food we eat is absorbed and travels through the bloodstream. Our hearts pump 4.5 to 5 liters of blood each minute. (Think 2 ½ of those 2 liter Coke bottles.) Blood is what carries needed oxygen and glucose to our brain and other important body organs. The same blood carries waste and toxins away.
Of all diseases those affecting the brain are the most dreaded and feared. We all want to keep our sense of self, our memory and our ability to connect with friends and family. Can we ensure that we live to old age healthy with sharp minds? While there are no guarantees, we can certainly make it more likely. Caring for our bodies will make our brains function optimally.
We know many of the things we should be doing. Eat the right foods. Exercise. Drink water. Sleep. But sometimes it gets confusing. Which foods are the right ones? Should you take vitamins? Which ones? What about those nutritional supplements? Which exercises should you do?
Life often gets in the way. You have your job, your spouse, your kids, maybe your parents…. Sometimes we know exactly what we should be doing but we don’t have the time. We don’t have the money. We feel overwhelmed. We are addicted and we can’t stop. (Eating, smoking, drinking). We just don’t know where to begin.
Start here and start today. Make it your goal to get and stay healthy, to think clearly into old age. Subscribe to the Say No To Stroke newsletter. You will find medical information presented in a user friendly way. Expect education and motivation. And, although I am a surgeon I am always on the lookout for the best treatments for my patients. Often the answer is not a prescription or surgery.
I have a B.A in biology from Harvard College and an M.D. from SUNY Upstate Medical University. I completed my neurosurgery residency training at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. I am a neurosurgeon in private practice in New York. I love my job but doing way too many emergency brain surgeries convinced me that my patients needed more information. Quality information, not hype. Usable steps they could take to avoid having that stroke in the first place, or developing dementia. So, here it is, and here you are. Hope it helps. Please remember that although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. I haven't obtained your detailed medical history, and I haven't examined you. Always discuss the medical issues you read about here with your personal physician. If you don't have one, get one! Find someone you can talk to, someone you feel comfortable with. That is one of the first steps you must take toward a healthier body, brain, and future.
AB Fraser, MD
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15 South Street, Middletown, NY 10940