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Knowing Your Risk for Having a Stroke is Your First Line of Defense

June 07, 2010

Every year, more than 750,000 Americans experience a stroke, and the majority of them wait 12 to 24 hours before seeking any medical attention,” said Richard Gerstein, MD, Director of Emergency Services at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.  Knowing your risk for having a Stroke is your first line of defense, secondly, knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke enables you to take action fast should one occur.


Stroke, also known as a brain attack, occurs when blood vessels carrying oxygen to the brain rupture or are blocked by a blood clot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke is the third leading cause of death and a major cause of serious long-term disability in the United States.


“There are several factors which increase the risk of stroke, but that may be treated, including high blood pressure, tobacco use, diabetes, obesity, carotid artery disease, and atrial fibrillation.” notes Gerstein.  “There are some risk factors for stroke that cannot be changed line, increasing age, gender, family history of vascular disease and prior stroke or heart attack.”


People of all ages, including children, have strokes, but the risk of stroke increases as we age. Stroke is more common in men than in women. In most age groups, more men than women will have a stroke in a given year and stroke risk is greater if a parent, grandparent, brother or sister had a stroke.


The symptoms of a stroke are:

  • sudden weakness or numbness of the face or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • sudden severe headache with no known cause.


“If you are familiar with the warning signs of a stroke, you may be able to get to the hospital in time to save your life, or even reverse the stroke itself,” said Gerstein.  “Many stroke patients have no idea they are having a stroke because brain cells are dying which can affect their judgment.” 


Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware has been designated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as a Primary Stroke Service. Designation is awarded to hospitals that demonstrate they have the capacity to provide the medical expertise, diagnostic equipment and treatment protocols needed to assure appropriate around-the-clock emergency care for patients who present with signs of a stroke.


We have a comprehensive team approach to stroke care consisting of physicians, nurses and other clinical and support professionals.


And we partner with our sister hospital, Baystate Medical Center (BMC) in Springfield, to deliver the quality of care our patients deserve. Our tele-medicine technology we utilize here in the Emergency Department features a high quality camera which can be controlled by a BMC neurologist or neurosurgeon from a remote setting, while talking directly to the BMLH emergency department physician, patient and family. Simultaneously, while they collaborate in the examination of the patient, a CT scan of the brain is being transmitted to them as well. 


Essentially, this technology allows virtual examination, evaluation and treatment. 


Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Emergency Department is open 24 hours per day providing urgent and emergent care for all medical, surgical and pediatric problems.  Full time physicians who are all board certified in Emergency Medicine, and many of them in another subspecialty and the nursing team, with special training in basic life support, and advanced cardiac life support provided proudly provide care to our community members.