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Long Island Wellness: Tips for Staying Brain-Healthy

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Anne Marie Virgilio, Dr. Kimon Bekelis and Hillary Bekelis outside of the Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center of Long Island.

Before investing in a home, buyers consider all kinds of factors—a house’s location, its structural condition, the eventual cost of upkeep and other variables that could impact the potential asset. It’s a no-brainer. But while Long Island residents know their homes are among their most precious assets, and we all understand the care and diligence it takes to keeps our homes safe and protected, how many of us put as much consideration into caring for and protecting another far more essential and valuable asset—our brain, particularly from the dangers of strokes.

Roughly 80% of strokes are preventable by controlling certain risk factors, says Dr. Kimon Bekelis, neurosurgeon and Director of the Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center of Long Island in Babylon. “What we do focuses on the stroke side, but many preventative approaches to stroke care are similar to preventing cardiovascular disease and heart attacks,” he explains.

A stroke occurs when a clot or plaque blocks a blood vessel in the brain, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Luckily, healthy habits that benefit the heart can also lower the risk of stroke. “The basic risk factors that folks have to control to minimize the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease in general [are] high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. If you control these risk factors, you will be able to control the majority of cardiovascular events,” Dr. Bekelis says.

High blood pressure is the most potent risk factor for stroke, as per the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In fact, the condition can double the risk, so individuals with high blood pressure should work with their doctor to create a strategy to bring it down to a normal range. This can be done, in part, through being active, Dr. Bekelis says. “Any physical activity is better than none. And when it comes to a heart-healthy diet, that’s also very important.”

Stroke ranks as the fourth killer in the country. Each year, approximately 795,000 Americans have a stroke, and about 160,000 die from stroke-related causes, according to NINDS.

“Generally speaking, checking in with your primary care physician frequently to make sure that you are controlling those risk factors is of paramount importance,” Dr. Bekelis says.

However, some roughly 20% of strokes are not preventable, says nurse practitioner Hillary Bekelis of the Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center. “Sometimes people have a genetic risk factor. There are young people that are active and healthy, and control their blood pressure and cholesterol, but they can still get plaque build-up.” Others may have a blood disorder due to genetics.

Li Stroke Brain Aneurism Center Exterior

Photo Kate Nalepinski/LI HOME

Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center’s outpatient center in Babylon offers noninvasive procedures and comprehensive diagnostic services for patients with brain aneurysms, stroke and cerebrovascular disease. From the medical care to the physical building itself, a historic Victorian home, the Center was created as part of an ongoing mission.

“Personally, that is the reason I got into neurosurgery and endovascular neurosurgery,” says Dr. Bekelis, “to be able to offer these services and treat diseases that are life-changing with a way that respects the patient’s anatomy and minimizes the trauma for the patient.”

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