Strokes are a health crisis facing many Black Americans. The CDC reports that Black Americans are 50 percent more likely to have a stroke as compared to white adult counterparts. This “brain attack” occurs when blood that brings oxygen to the brain stops flowing and brain cells die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.
According to the CDC, Black men are 70 percent more likely to die from a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic whites. Black women are twice as likely to have a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic white women. Our Time Press spoke with Dr. Ambooj Tiwari, Vice Chair of the Department of Neurosciences at One Brooklyn Heath in Brookdale Hospital and University Medical Center. A leading stroke specialist, vascular neurologist and surgeon, Dr Tiwari’s patients are Black Brooklynites.
OTP: You treat patients for strokes in East Brooklyn in the 45 to 65 age group, but in the rest of the country, strokes tend to be slightly over older disease 55 to 75 or 80 years old. Why?
Dr. Ambooj Tiwari: High blood pressure and diabetes tend to be dominant in Black communities. They also tend to have less frequent physician contact. By the time they tend to have medical contact, it’s typically in the ER. It’s the first time they’ve seen any physician or gotten medical care from healthcare personnel.
OTP – What are some of the major symptoms of a stroke?
AT: Most of the time, it will present with weakness on one side of the body. Sometimes severe dizziness, nausea and vomiting, vision problems and numbness or pain. But, sometimes it presents with more severe symptoms like losing the ability to talk or being completely paralyzed.
OTP: What are the two types of strokes?
AT: Overall if you look at the national statistics, the bleeding type of strokes tends to be 10 to 15 percent nationally. Our local statistics in East Brooklyn tend to be 25 to 30 percent. There are two kinds of strokes — bleeding and clotting. The bleeding kind of stroke can be very severe. And very dramatic. The clotting type of stroke, some of them can be small and some of them can be big. But with hypertension, a lot of people have small strokes first and big strokes much later. The ones in the back (brain)have more severe symptoms. The ones in the back affect your balance, speech, ability to walk, and ability to eat. They are more severe than the ones in the front. The arteries that are small actually have small strokes. which can be non-debilitating. But, they can be debilitating if there are a lot of them.
According to the American Heart Association, someone in the US has a stroke every 40 seconds. To spot a stroke remember FAST – Face Dropping, Arm Weakness, Speech Difficulty and Time to Call 911. There are health conditions and lifestyle habits that can increase the risk for stroke. Several risk factors related to stroke include obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and cigarette smoking. To prevent and manage a stroke, the CDC recommends focusing on healthy nutritional foods, weight management, physical exercise, stopping smoking and limiting alcohol.