OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma once again receives a negative ranking in a health report, this time in one that deals with states that have the highest percentage of stroke victims.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said Oklahoma tied with the District of Columbia for the second-highest prevalence of strokes at 3.4 percent.
Mississippi was ranked highest at 4.3 percent and Connecticut was lowest at 1.5 percent. The national average was 2.6 percent, according to the report.
Strokes occur when a blood clot or hemorrhage disrupts blood flow to the brain, causing brain damage. About 700,000 strokes are reported each year in the United States and about 160,000 Americans die from them annually.
Living adults age 18 and older in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands were surveyed for the report.
Oklahoma is on the edge of the so-called ``Stroke Belt,'' an area centered in the southeastern United States.
Scientists aren't sure why strokes are more common there, but believe it may be related to the high rates of obesity, high blood pressure and smoking, said Dr. Charles Morgan, a neurologist at the Integris Stroke Center at Oklahoma City's Southwest Medical Center.
``If everybody in Oklahoma knew what their blood pressure was and worked on getting it down, our risk of stroke would decrease substantially,'' Morgan said.
Permanent damage from stokes can be minimized with the use of clot-busting drugs, but the key is quick reaction with the correct treatment, he said.
Tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA, is a drug used in stroke treatment to dissolve clots in a hospital emergency room. If done within an hour of the stroke, there's a very good chance patients will have no lasting problems.
High blood pressure is the strongest risk factor for stroke, but it doesn't show symptoms until someone's had a stroke or heart attack, said Dr. David Lee Gordon, chairman of the neurology department at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.
Lifestyle changes such as decreasing salt intake, moderate alcohol intake, losing weight and regular aerobic exercise can help stave off high blood pressure.