The relevance of Professor Kevin S. Lee's lecture, “Strategies for Avoiding and Surviving a Stroke,” attracted more than 250 guests for the latest Aging 101 session. Professor Lee is the Chair and Harrison Foundation Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Virginia . One audience member wrote on the comment card that his presentation was “a real lifesaver!” Another guest termed Lee's lecture “very informative – a real wake-up call!!” Dr. Lee Lecture

When Lee asked how many in the audience had been affected by stroke, the vast majority raised their hand. Lee then noted that stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States; it is also the third leading cause of death. Over 160,000 deaths per year result from this interruption of blood flow in or around the brain. Reinforcing this statistic's local impact is the fact that Virginia is in the “stroke belt” due to high tobacco use, a fatty diet, rural areas and socioeconomic factors.

Also alarming is the fact that more than 75% of Americans cannot name the most common warning signs of stroke. Fewer than half of all individuals over fifty are aware of stroke's signs and the importance of seeking immediate medical attention.

Lee stressed repeatedly that more people must know and quickly act upon the warning signs of stroke. He said 85% of strokes occur at home; the importance of stroke education is also evident by his statement that 39% of strokes are recognized by a witness or bystander.

After revealing other startling facts as well as briefly discussing different types of stroke, Lee proceeded to briefly outline their treatment. He stressed the importance of preventing strokes and observed that diet and exercise “have a huge effect” on avoiding strokes.

Once a stroke occurs, “time is brain” said Professor Lee. In other words, the speed of response is absolutely critical and can have a tremendous impact on the success of treatment which attempts to restore blood flow to the affected area. He also referred to the vitally important three-hour limit between the onset of stroke and the possible administration of a clot-dissolving drug. This drug typically cannot be given beyond that time limit.

Lee's research includes attempting to block the mechanisms of cell death produced by a stroke. He is now focusing on metabolic reflow, or an effort to decrease the intensity of a blockage in an artery supplying blood flow to the brain. Although cautioning that each drug trial has failed thus far, Lee added that he is “very enthusiastic” about work he and colleagues are doing; it “holds considerable promise” for the upcoming five to ten years.

Lee said “the most important part of [his] lecture” is:

•  stroke prevention is first and foremost

•  when stroke occurs, recognition and rapid response are critical.

Another audience member noted Lee's “strong take-home message” of being a teacher for life. Lee used that phrase to underline the urgency of learning stroke's warning signs, teaching them to family and friends, asking those people to inform others, and calling 911. He cautioned listeners not to delay action by thinking the symptoms will go away. Time lost is brain lost.


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Last Modified: 18-Jun-2008 15:25:26 EDT
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