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Health hotline doctors answer questions about strokes

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 4:31 p.m. MDT

Intermountain Medical Center stroke coordinator Kelly Anderson poses for photos Thursday, May 10, 2012. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Intermountain Medical Center stroke coordinator Kelly Anderson poses for photos Thursday, May 10, 2012. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Although blood-thinning medications can decrease the chance of a blood clot forming and causing a stroke, it does not eliminate the possibility one might occur.

"It lowers your risk of having a stroke, but it's not a 100 percent guarantee," Kelly Anderson said.

Anderson, coordinator of the Intermountain Medical Center Stroke Program, and Dr. Gregory Call, neurologist at the program, fielded calls about strokes from callers throughout Utah on Saturday during the Deseret News Health Hotline.

Some callers were under the mistaken impression that their stroke medication — in the callers' cases Coumadin — would eliminate their chances of developing a stroke. This is an inaccurate assumption, Anderson said.

Intermountain Medical Center stroke coordinator Kelly Anderson poses for photos Thursday, May 10, 2012. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Intermountain Medical Center stroke coordinator Kelly Anderson poses for photos Thursday, May 10, 2012. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

One type of stroke is called a Transient Ischemic Attack, more commonly known as TIA. This is almost identical to an ischemic stroke, but the blood clot will dissolve or break up on its own, without medication, causing the symptoms to disappear, Anderson said. The callers on Coumedin experienced TIA symptoms, but were not aware that loss of balance or coordination or sudden blurred or impaired vision can also indicate a stroke.

Vision is controlled by the occipital lobe and balance by the cerebellum. Both are located in the back of the brain and are affected when a stroke occurs in this area, as opposed to strokes that impact either side of the brain. Many stroke patients whom Anderson sees at the Intermountain Medical Center will report vision or balance problems as their first or only symptom.

Anderson encouraged callers who experienced TIA symptoms to keep a diary of symptom length and frequency and report their findings to their primary care physician.

Intermountain Medical Center stroke coordinator Kelly Anderson poses for photos Thursday, May 10, 2012. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Intermountain Medical Center stroke coordinator Kelly Anderson poses for photos Thursday, May 10, 2012. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

One Facebook question asked about how to decrease the risk of a stroke when family history indicates an individual is at risk.

"As far as we know, this is not a genetic condition and stroke is not inevitable," Call responded. "A lot of families have somebody who has has a stroke. It doesn’t mean it is inevitable for you.

"For anyone looking to reduce risk of stroke, healthy lifestyle choices help. Exercise, eating a healthy diet, avoiding smoking and too much drinking."

Call also advised callers to check with their doctor or pharmacist before taking herbal supplements. Some herbal supplements are known to increase blood pressure, he said, which could increase chances of a stroke.

The health hotline is offered to readers through a partnership between Intermountain Healthcare and the Deseret News. It covers a different health topic the second Saturday of each month.

Kelly Anderson (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Kelly Anderson (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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