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Know your risk factors for stroke and what you can do to prevent it

By WKTV News

Hundreds of thousands of people suffer stroke every year in this country.

One of the causes is carotid artery disease, but in its early stages it often doesn't produce symptoms. So, you need to know your risk factors and what you can do to prevent it in the first place.

The carotid arteries are blood vessels that deliver blood to your brain. If these vessels clog up with plaque, it can cause a stroke.

If you're a smoker or diabetic, your chances of suffering carotid artery disease are much higher than most people, and it is a disease that's all too common in Central New York.

"We have a heavy smoking population in this area that does drive the progression of peripheral vascular disease," said Dr. Stratton Danes, Vascular Surgeon at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown. "We do have a large diabetic population, too."

Dr. Danes says that unfortunately, there usually aren't any warning signs in the early stages of this disease. Most people are not diagnosed until after they've had a "spell."

"Usually the first sign of carotid artery disease you can see is a stroke. Might be a mini stroke. It comes and goes quickly, kind of like an ominous sign."

The signs of a possible stroke include:

*sudden numbness in the face or limbs, often on only one side of the body.

*trouble speaking and seeing.

*dizziness or loss of balance

*a sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Seeing a doctor on a regular basis increases your chances that carotid artery disease will be detected early and treated.

So if you have any risk factors, be sure to talk with your physician.