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Symptoms of Stroke

Symptoms of Stroke

It can happen when we least expect it. You or a loved one could be feeling fine one minute, and suddenly you can’t stand on their own due to a stroke. A stroke can be caused by a blood vessel in the brain bursting, or a blockage in the carotid arteries in your neck which supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain.  While strokes are readily determinable by their symptoms, it is critical that they are noticed and attended to quickly to ensure that there is no long-term damage to the brain. Thankfully, there is an acronym to help determine if a person is suffering a stroke: FAST.


One of the most commonly known symptoms of a stroke is that of Face Drooping. When a stroke occurs, the brain is not getting the blood it needs to function the rest of the body. Asking the person to smile is a good way to determine if this symptom is occurring.


As the brain struggles to get blood, nervous system cells are already beginning to die. This can cause hemiplegia, or paralysis on one side of the body. Although found in the face (see: face drooping), it occurs in the Arms as well. A person experiencing a stroke would not be able to lift both arms to the same extent if asked to do so.


During the course of a stroke, a person can become very confused, often slurring their speech trying to assess what is happening to them. They will not always understand that they aren’t speaking properly, or what is being spoken to them. This can be alarming, so it is crucial to assure the person that all is okay and you are getting help.


If you notice someone experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to call 9-1-1. Time is crucial in the case of strokes; any type of delay could take the situation from bad to worse. Even if the symptoms were to stop, the presence of them in a person is a sign that the worst could be coming.

Although these are not all the symptoms of a stroke, they are the defining ones; now you can determine even if someone MIGHT be having a stroke.  If you or a loved one begins showing smaller signs like the ones mentioned above, check with your doctor; a simple ultrasound of the carotid arteries can determine if they’re starting to reveal blockages.

3 Keys to Maintaining Vascular Heath

A human’s cardiovascular system is one of the most fascinating, complex systems our world has ever seen. By enabling the transportation of necessary oxygen to our cells, filtering CO2 out of the body, transporting nutrients throughout the body, and helping control our body temperature, it is truly amazing.

Just like an irreplaceable antique car or expensive boat, it is necessary to maintain and take care of all the moving parts working hard in your vascular system. Here are three easy habits to focus on to ensure your body is in its most optimal condition to stay healthy!

While this may not come as a surprise, quality sleep is one of the most important factors to staying healthy. Your body is a machine and, as such, it needs time to recharge just as any other piece of technology does. It has been found that not enough sleep, or lack of quality sleep, can disrupt critical functions in the body which puts people at high risk for vascular disease. Quality 6-8 hours of sleep is enough to take some of the load off your system and decrease the chance of any potential problems.

Physical Fitness
In a world where people can access so many things with the touch of a few buttons, it is important for folks to remember to spend time fine tuning themselves. Daily exercise is crucial to maintaining proper vascular health. Exercise is vital to your overall health as it directly affects your heart’s ability to pump blood through your arteries. Physical activity can also significantly decrease vascular problems from occurring in your limbs.

While this part might not be easy, it may as well be the most crucial aspect to your cumulative health. While it is impossible to eliminate all stress in your life, it is important to try and manage it as much as possible. It is necessary to plan out mental health days and experiment with new stress-relieving hobbies like yoga or meditation. Try your best to keep your work at work, and don’t let it follow you home. Give your brain a chance to rest and recuperate.  To get the most out of yourself, you need to minimize the effects of high stress levels on your cardiovascular system.

Forming these necessary habits to maintain your cumulative health is one of the most important steps you can take to keep your vascular system in check.

The Danger of Aortic Aneurysms

An aortic aneurysm is a condition where a weakening on the actual wall of the aorta causes an abnormal swelling or bulge to grow. The aorta is the major blood vessel that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body. These bulges can occur anywhere along the aorta, swelling to different sizes and shapes, sometimes several times its normal size. There are two types of aortic aneurysms, abdominal and thoracic. The abdominal type occurs in the aorta that passes through the abdomen, whereas the thoracic occurs in the chest cavity.  Interestingly, abdominal aneurysms are more common than thoracic aneurysms.

Abdominal aortic aneurysms often tend to grow slowly, and usually without any early symptoms, making them difficult to detect. As an aneurysm enlarges, people may notice a pulsating feeling near the navel, deep constant pain in the abdomen, or back pain. Signs that an aortic aneurysm has ruptured may be sudden intense abdominal pain, radiation of pain to the legs or back, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, or a rapid pulse. Because the aorta is the body’s main supplier of blood, it can cause life-threatening internal bleeding if it ruptures; on top of that, emergency surgery for a ruptured aortic aneurysm can be rather risky.  If you have any of these symptoms, you must not ignore them!


Like all vascular diseases, the causes of aortic aneurysms increase with age and depend on overall health. The exact cause of aortic aneurysms is unknown, but multiple risk factors include: tobacco use, high blood pressure, physical trauma, and in some cases it is hereditary. All of these cause damage to the aorta walls, making them weaker and more susceptible to an aneurysm.

Another complication of aortic aneurysms is the risk of blood clots. Small blood clots can develop within an aortic aneurysm. If a blood clot breaks loose from the inside wall of an aneurysm and blocks a blood vessel elsewhere in your body, it can cause pain or block the blood flow altogether to the legs, toes, kidneys or abdominal organs.


Don’t avoid what your body tells you; it is better to be safe than sorry in the long run! Make an appointment with the professionals at Vascular Surgery Associates; they are here to help prevent and treat vascular disease and complications.

Q&A with Dr. Smith

Tell us a little about yourself and what your primary focus at VSA is.

Dr. Smith: I am a board certified vascular surgeon that just joined the practice in 2017. I trained in Ohio at the University of Cincinnati. I was previously an engineer in the Air Force. I also have a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering, primarily researching in the field of therapeutic ultrasound. I have lived across this great country, growing up in a military family, as a veteran myself, and then supporting my military husband. My primary focus at VSA is providing quality care and treatment to our patients.


What sets VSA apart?

Dr. Smith: Our team-based approach in providing the best vascular care for our patients. Our group has been in Tallahassee since the 1970s; therefore, we have long established our ability to provide this care.


Why did you decide to specialize in vascular surgery?

Dr. Smith: During my clinical year in medical school, the very first surgery I saw was an endograft repair of an abdominal aortic aneurysm by a vascular surgeon. He performed this via two small groin incisions. This patient went home the next day. Just two decades ago, repairing an abdominal aortic aneurysm was primarily performed through a large abdominal incision with long hospital stays. I also realized that vascular surgeons use ultrasound every day in their practice; it then became a clear decision to become a vascular surgeon.


How has technology changed vascular surgery?

Dr. Smith: Technology has completely changed vascular surgery. Most of vascular surgery is now performed in minimally invasive ways that do not require what’s referred to as an “open” incision, which has to be done in a hospital operating room. This approach improves patient outcomes overall and eliminates the need for a hospital stay.


Since you’ve been in the field, what developments or breakthroughs have occurred?

Dr. Smith: The use of percutaneous atherectomy and mechanical thrombectomy devices have revolutionized how we practice vascular surgery. The ability to remove atherosclerotic plaque or clot from a vessel via minimally invasive techniques without the need for open incisions is extraordinary.


Why should the average person worry about their vascular health?

Dr. Smith: Obesity or being overweight is an epidemic in the United States. We have the highest rates of obesity in the South with certain states having rates greater than 35% of the population. Obesity is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.  This can predispose you to heart attacks, high blood pressure, leg pain, and stroke.


What simple ways can the average person improve their vascular health?

Dr. Smith: Walk for twenty minutes at least three times a week. Make simple changes in your diet that decrease salt and fatty intake. Don’t smoke. Visit website or seek help from your physician.


How important is exercise beyond weight loss?

Dr. Smith: It improves overall cardiovascular health.


How important is diet aside from maintaining a healthy weight?

Dr. Smith: Reducing your salt and fatty intake has shown to decrease atherosclerotic plaque formation, cholesterol as well as blood pressure.


Could you share a VSA Success Story with us?

Dr. Smith: My first leg bypass surgery in Tallahassee was for a Korean war Army veteran. He had previous leg bypasses that failed and continued to have pain in his foot. He currently is recovering and no longer has pain. Taking care of our veterans is a privilege and an honor. His case will always be remembered.


Atherosclerosis is a type of vascular disease that affects the arteries of the body. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen away from a heart. These arteries work with veins, which send blood back to heart, to keep the heart pumping. This function allows for the removal of chemical waste from your body, as well as moving oxygen and other nutrients.

With atherosclerosis, these arteries become the perfect places for fatty substances like cholesterol and cellular waste products to build up over time. The substance that clogs the arteries is called plaque. This makes the arteries narrower, which causes problems in blood flow. It is a disease that is hard to detect early on because for it to be detrimental, there has to be a significant amount of plaque build up.

Unfortunately, atherosclerosis is the number one cause of death in the developed world. Almost all people are affected by the age of 65. Developed countries are more exposed to a variety of “junk” food and fast food, which is why it is common for people in said countries to develop this disease. People get affected by atherosclerosis in different ways, and there are different types of atherosclerosis, with some examples being angina and carotid artery disease. Angina is where the heart has reduced blood flow, causing chest pains. Carotid artery disease refers to neck plaque that prevents blood from supplying blood to the brain. Some people may have partial plaque build up in the legs, while others could have a complete blockage of arteries in their arms.

The best and most effective way to prevent this disease is to stay healthy by eating healthy foods, exercising, and not smoking. Eating healthy provides the right nutrients, and exercising keeps your body and organs strong and working properly. Smoking also increases the chances of plaque build up. Following these three steps will help prevent plaque build-up.

Yoga: More Than Stretching

Yoga is a discipline and a lifestyle to many around the globe. For us, doing yoga can provide physical and mental benefits. Yoga is a more involved form of stretching and deep breathing to help circulation and promote vascular health.

It is easy to overlook how the mind can affect the physical body. When under stress, common physical symptoms may include, but are not limited to: muscle tension, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and even low energy. Yoga is special because it brings together physical activity, breathing, and meditation.

Because yoga is less strenuous than other kinds of exercise, it is easier to adapt to, and serves a greater audience. Doing a variety of yoga positions stretches and works our muscles. The deep breathing involved with yoga can help lower blood pressure and circulate more oxygen to the body. These activities may help prevent heart disease, and can help people with cardiovascular problems.

If stress and anxiety is impacting your mental health, mind-soothing meditation, a key part of yoga, quiets the nervous system and eases stress. Yoga appears to influence stress response systems. Because of this, yoga decreases physiological arousal, which ties into vascular health. This includes benefits such as reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There is also evidence that yoga can help increase heart rate variability, the ability to adapt to stress-induced situations.

Yoga is a great method of staying mentally and physically positive. While it may sound intimidating, many classes are designed for beginners. Like any other form of exercise Yoga helps regardless of your skill level! Anyone can pick it up and begin to see the benefits of yoga.

Q&A with Dr. Kaelin

Tell us a little about yourself and what your primary focus at VSA is.

Dr. Kaelin:  Vascular Surgery Associates was started specifically for the care and treatment of peripheral vascular issues.  Peripheral vascular means all the blood vessels except the heart and the brain.  This is important because this is our focus just as there are specialties that focus on the heart.  Our specialty includes specific training and board certification for arterial and venous issues.  Our primary focus is on the identification and management of these issues.  Most of the problems we manage do not require surgical or even minimally invasive procedures.  They can be managed medically and in conjunction with the primary care physician.  When specific intervention is required most people can have an outpatient minimally invasive procedure.


What sets VSA apart?

Dr. Kaelin:  We have board certified providers, specific vascular trained ARNP’s and PA.  We have an efficient office staff with inhouse non-invasive and inhouse interventional suite, so most things can be done right in the office.


Why did you decide to specialize in vascular surgery?

Dr. Kaelin: The ability to dramatically affect a patient’s quality of life by the management of their vascular health is very rewarding.


How has technology changed vascular surgery?

Dr. Kaelin:  It has changed the treatment of vascular issues that require intervention from 90% surgical to 90% minimally invasive.


Since you’ve been in the field, what developments or breakthroughs have occurred?

Dr. Kaelin:  Aortic aneurysm stents, peripheral atherectomy devices to reopen lower extremity vessels through a catheter as an outpatient without bypass, significant improvement in imaging and diagnostic tools, and improved medical options.


Why should the average person worry about their vascular health?

Dr. Kaelin:  Poor vascular health can lead to heart attack, stroke, amputation and death.


What simple ways can the average person improve their vascular health?

Dr. Kaelin: Discussion with their primary care physician about risk factors and appropriate screening.


How important is exercise beyond weight loss?

Dr. Kaelin:  Very important as it improves overall vascular health.


How important is diet aside from maintaining a healthy weight?

Dr. Kaelin: Diet depends on medical issues.  There are many types of “diets” and these should be discussed with the primary care physician to make sure the right choices are being made.


Could you share a VSA Success Story with us?

Dr. Kaelin:  A Patient came to the ER with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm that in the past would have required 10-14 days in the hospital and 3-4 months of recovery. We were able to fix it with a minimally invasive procedure, and they went home the next day and back to their usual activities within 2 weeks.


Foods That Could Lower Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as Hypertension, is a serious health issue that affects many Americans. The pressure of your blood on your artery walls can cause many health problems including heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. While many factors contribute to your blood pressure, it’s important to do everything in your control to keep it at healthy level. Exercise and proper diet can help a lot. Here are some foods to consider introducing into your diet or replacing unhealthy options with!

Let’s start with breakfast, a difficult meal for some. Oatmeal is a great option to help lower your blood pressure. It’s high in fiber, and low in fat and sodium. While a bacon, egg, and cheese muffin may sound appetizing, it’s not the best idea when watching your fat and sodium intake. It’s also important to not load your oatmeal up with tons of sugar and butter, as the fiber only goes so far when you’re drowning it in unhealthy additions. Lowfat milk and yogurt are also smart breakfast options!

As a child we are told to “eat our vegetables,” and that goes for adults as well! Leafy greens are high in potassium and other valuable vitamins. Potassium helps your kidneys combat sodium. Lettuce, kale, greens, spinach, they’re all perfect for improving your diet. Eat them raw in a salad, bake kale in the oven for a crunchy snack, or incorporate spinach in whatever meat you’re cooking! Just remember not to douse your salad in tons of dressing, especially not ranch.

Want a healthy main course? Fish is exactly what you’re looking for. High in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, fish like salmon actively combat hypertension while tasting great. There are many different ways to prepare fish, and it goes with just about anything! It’s also easy to cook, which may be a barrier for eating healthy.

And you can’t forget dessert! Fruit is the perfect sweet treat to substitute ice cream or cookies. Berries provide vitamins for a low-calorie cost, while bananas offer high amounts of potassium. But that’s not all; eating dark chocolate can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease. It’s rich flavor and hint of sweetness are a great substitute for less-healthy chocolate desserts.

It’s important to remember that eating one or two of these foods does not mean your blood pressure will be decreased! Be mindful of what you shouldn’t eat as well! Combined with exercise and an overall healthy diet, these foods could help lower your blood pressure.

Low-Impact Exercises

Exercise isn’t meant to be easy for anyone, but for some it’s made even harder. Bad joints, excess weight, osteoporosis, the list goes on for why someone might say they can’t run or lift weights. But just because you can’t run doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise! Remember, runners may not be capable of rock climbing, and climbers may not have the ability to play a contact sport like Football. If you’ve ever stopped yourself from working out because of your bad knees or weight, here are some low-impact exercises you should consider doing!

Walking is the easiest work out, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. If you’ve walked around a theme park for a day, you know how tiring walking can be! Running can put a lot of stress on your joints and knees, but walking lacks the quality of running that causes that stress. The difference between running and walking actually isn’t the speed; for a short moment while running both feet leave the ground, while walking is defined by having at least one foot on the ground at all times. This makes a huge difference on the amount of impact because running places all of your weight on the foot you land on, while walking is a smooth transfer of weight from one foot to the other. Power walk around the neighborhood and see how you feel!

Cycling, either on the road or stationary bike, is an excellent work out regardless of your physical limitations. While it can be cost prohibitive if you don’t have a bike, most gyms have stationary bikes. Not only is this an effective form of cardio, it’s also a lot of fun! If you’re interested in cycling there are many resources online to find the right bike for you, and to keep it maintained. More than just a work out for many, cycling could be your new hobby.

Swimming is considered a full-body workout, which means you could make some serious progress if you have access to a pool. Using your arms, legs, and core to stay moving could be the perfect solution for you. It provides a more comprehensive workout than many others while also being probably the lowest impact exercise. It’s the closest we can get to no-impact exercise, as you’re never required to hold your weight up on solid ground. From Olympic athletes to senior citizens swimming keeps your heart pumping fast.

Don’t let excuses get in your way! Consider adding one of these activities to your regular schedule and you’ll be on your way to a healthier life.

Reducing the Risk of Vascular Disease

Reducing the Risk of Vascular Disease


While vascular disease isn’t entirely preventable, there are many ways you can reduce your risk for developing disease. In this blog we will run down some easy ways to improve your health that also directly relate to your vascular health. Some may not apply to you and some may be harder than others, but it’s important to know all of these in order to maintain or improve your health for the future.

Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is the most immediate improvement someone could make with their health. While it doesn’t apply to everyone, and it may be more challenging for some than others, you must know the risks involved with smoking:

  • Accelerated development of atherosclerosis
  • Reduced blood flow
  • Thickening of blood
  • Higher blood pressure

It’s not easy to break the addiction, and it often takes a health scare for some to quit. It’s in your best interest to not let it get that far and to “commit to quit” if you’re really dedicated to improving your health.

Diet and Exercise

For others, diet and exercise may be the hardest improvement but also the most necessary. These are paired together because one without the other is counterproductive. Think of your body as a car that needs fuel; a car runs better when it is driven regularly, but it also needs the right fuel to do so!

Here’s what proper diet and exercise can do for you:

  • Lose excess weight
  • Maintain proper blood sugar levels
  • Better cardiovascular health and endurance
  • A better night’s sleep
  • Improved circulation

Tackling Other Issues

The vascular system runs throughout our bodies, which makes it vulnerable to more than just a few issues. General self care is actually the biggest risk mitigation you can do for your vascular health. Things such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure can affect your vascular system. Each of these presents complications and requires a closer look than you may think. When you’re approaching high blood pressure or are at risk for becoming diabetic, take it very seriously. These things have permanent consequences and make caring for your vascular system that much harder. Follow any advice your primary physician gives you to stay at healthy levels.

The staff at Vascular Surgery Associates is dedicated to its patients, but we also urge them to do their part when possible. A healthier lifestyle could result in less visits to the doctor, and more time to do the things you love!