Stroke Education and Prevention

Dr. Lisa Hermann, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology, discusses important information we should all know about strokes.

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Tanicia Haynes: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness wellcast. I am Tanicia Haynes with Occupational Health. Today we are speaking with Dr. Lisa Hermann, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology, about strokes. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.

Dr. Lisa Hermann: It's my pleasure.

Tanicia Haynes: Great. What happens to the body when someone is having a stroke?

Dr. Lisa Hermann: A stroke is when the brain does not receive enough oxygen and those brain cells, or neurons, die due to lack of oxygen, and that can happen a couple of different ways. That can happen if there is a clot from one part of the body that goes up to the brain and obstructs blood flow or that can happen when small vessels in the brain do not receive enough blood flow because they have closed off due to disease. Also, if a person is having a cardiac arrest or a heart attack and their brain does not receive enough blood flow because the heart is not pumping, that can cause a stroke.

Tanicia Haynes: So, what are the signs that someone maybe would notice that they are having a stroke or someone else is having a stroke?

Dr. Lisa Hermann: First of all, strokes are not painful, and so often people are not as concerned about them as they are with a heart attack, and so usually they have neurologic changes. So, that would be weakness of an arm or a leg or the face. So, you could see facial droop or not being able to use your limbs  as you normally would. It could be absence of sensation, some numbness, or loss of vision. It could be loss of speech or garbled speech. Also, with people have double vision, that could be a sign of a stroke.

Tanicia Haynes: So, if I thought that I was having a stroke or someone that I was with I thought was having a stroke, what should I do?

Dr. Lisa Hermann: So, the most important thing that you can do is to call 911. A stroke is an emergency and people who are treated by EMS receive faster care, and with a stroke, because we are talking about lack of oxygen, the most important thing is to be quick and fast.

Tanicia Haynes: Are there any things that maybe would make it more likely that someone would have a stroke or are there risk factors that are associated with having a stroke?

Dr. Lisa Hermann: So, risk factors of stroke are similar to risk factors of heart disease, so elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, smoking, heavy drinking, or abnormal heart rhythms all can be risk factors for a stroke.

Tanicia Haynes: It sounds like maybe there are things that you could do to prevent the likelihood of you having a stroke?

Dr. Lisa Hermann: Right. So, the best thing that we can do is to prevent stroke. A lot of stroke care is all about prevention, and so things that we can do to prevent a stroke are to see your doctor annually to make sure that you don't have risk factors of stroke. In some cases, people may be instructed to take a daily aspirin to prevent stroke. Good control of blood pressure and cholesterol is important in stroke prevention as well as stopping smoking or not starting smoking as well as minimizing alcohol use.

Tanicia Haynes: Great. Well, thank you so much for all of that information. I think that our listeners are definitely ones that would like to have this information.

Dr. Lisa Hermann: Oh, it was my pleasure.

Tanicia Haynes: Thanks for listening. If you have a story suggestion, please email it to us at or you can use the "Contact Us" page on our website at