Stroke risk specialist: Don’t dismiss high blood pressure

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SPRINGFIELD – “People think, ‘I get older, my blood pressure gets high,’” said Patricia K. Henault, coordinator of Mercy Medical Center’s stroke program, of perceptions around aging and health and what is acceptable.

“High blood pressure is serious and you need to keep it under control because you might have a stroke. Sometimes older people go, ‘If I die, I die.’ I say: But you don’t want to be paralyzed for the rest of your life. You want to live a full life as long as you can.”

According to government statistics, someone dies of a stroke every four minutes in the United States. It is listed as the underlying cause of one out of every 20 deaths in the country. While the risk of stroke increases with age, 34 percent of people hospitalized for the condition in 2009 were less than 65 years of age.

The most common type of stroke is ischemic in which blood flow to the brain is blocked. Hemorrhagic stroke involves a bleed. Both types of stroke damage brain cells and can result in physical and cognitive deficits that impair speech, memory, and control of muscles and limbs.

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