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Stroke Prevention

Research suggests that management of modifiable stroke risk factors can decrease the risk of a secondary stroke by as much as 80%!

If you have suffered a primary stroke or TIA, you are a candidate for our Stroke Prevention Clinic. To schedule an evaluation, call (608) 775-9000 or talk with your primary care provider about a referral.

At Gundersen Health System we believe the best treatment is prevention. This is especially true for something as potentially debilitating or deadly, as stroke. That's why Gundersen has made stroke prevention a top health priority through our Stroke Prevention Clinic.

For someone who has had a stroke, the chance of a second stroke within 5 years is as much as 30-40%. The stroke risk is similarly high for someone who has had a transient ischemic attack (TIA or "mini stroke" is a serious stroke warning sign).

Specially trained staff work with the patient to identify, address, monitor and minimize or resolve modifiable risk factors that can lead to an additional stroke such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Sedentary lifestyle/lack of exercise
  • Heart and vascular conditions such as plaque in the arteries or heart arrhythmia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress

Risk modification strategies, including education, rehab and medications, can help improve quality of life following a stroke and lessen the likelihood of another stroke. Another important component is supported lifestyle modification (see below).

Through the Stroke Prevention Clinic, patients and their families also have access to other resources such as social workers, behavioral health professionals and others.

Lifestyle changes may help prevent a stroke:

  • Avoid fatty foods. Follow a healthy, low-fat diet.
  • Do not drink more than 1 to 2 alcoholic drinks a day.
  • Exercise regularly: 30 minutes a day if you are not overweight; 60-90 minutes a day if you are overweight.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Get your blood pressure checked every 1-2 years, especially if high blood pressure runs in your family. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or have had stroke, you need to have it checked often. Ask your doctor.
  • Everyone should keep their blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg.
  • If you have diabetes or have had a stroke, your blood pressure should probably be less than 130/80 mm/Hg. Ask your doctor what it should be.
  • Have your cholesterol checked and treated.
  • Adults should have their cholesterol checked every 5 years. If you are being treated for high cholesterol, you will need it checked more often.
  • If you have diabetes, heart disease, or hardening of the arteries, your LDL "bad" cholesterol should be lower than 70 mg/dL.
  • Follow your doctor's treatment recommendations if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

Your doctor may suggest taking aspirin or another drug called clopidogrel (Plavix) to help prevent blood clots from forming in your arteries or your heart. These medicines are called antiplatelet drugs. DO NOT take aspirin without talking to your doctor first. Your doctor may suggest using one of these drugs:

  • To prevent a first stroke in women over 65 who are at risk for a stroke
  • After a stroke, often combined with a drug called dipyridamole
  • If you have had a transient ischemic attach (TIA) or stroke in the past
  • If you have heart failure or an irregular heart beat (such as atrial fibrillation)

Warfarin (Coumadin), an anticoagulant (“blood thinner”) drug, may be used to prevent strokes if you have:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • An artificial (man-made) heart valve

A neurointerventional procedure called carotid stenting or a type of surgery called carotid endarterectomy may help prevent new strokes from occurring in persons with large blockages in their neck arteries.

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