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Striking out against stroke.

Stroke remains the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart attacks and cancer, causing nearly 150,000 deaths each year. About 500,000 Americans suffer nonfatal strokes annually.

Although stroke rates are declining nationally, 11 states have rates significantly higher than the national average. Comprising what has been dubbed the "Stroke Belt," they are (in declining order of rates): South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana, Virginia, and Kentucky.

There is still a high prevalence of high blood pressure, the key risk factor in stroke, as well as geographic and racial differences in the stroke rate. Hypertension (high blood pressure) affects more than 30 percent of Americans. Hypertension is defined as systolic blood pressure of 140 (mm of mercury) or greater, and/or a diastolic pressure of 90 or more.

Despite high levels of awareness and detection, only one in five hypertensive persons has his or her blood pressure under control. If you haven't had your blood pressure checked lately by a doctor or other health professional experienced in taking blood pressure, do so. Don't rely on your "feelings," because hypertension may produce no symptoms. Also, don't trust those blood pressure machines found in drug or department stores, shopping malls, etc.

We advise everyone who develops hypertension to buy a blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope and start taking their blood pressure regularly. Keep a log and give it to your doctor when you go for checkups. Many find that after instituting a regular exercise regime, their blood pressure goes down. It also goes down for many people after consuming less salt and fats, and losing weight. Before taking drugs for moderately high blood pressure, it's often advisable to change one's lifestyle.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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