Considering the fact that stroke is a leading cause of death in the US with over 800,000 people dying each year from strokes and other cardiovascular disease, what you can do for stroke prevention is a very important part of your healthy living plan.
Strokes are similar to heart attacks in that something has stopped the blood flow to the area. Either a clot is blocking the blood supply or a blood vessel bursts in the brain. In fact, a stroke is sometimes referred to as a ‘brain attack’.
Stroke Prevention: Know the Symptoms
If you ever suspect you are having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. If you get emergency treatment right away, you have a better chance of surviving the stroke. Watch for these 5 most common symptoms as listed on the CDC website:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg
- Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Notice that the symptoms are always sudden. But even if you get these symptoms and they go away in a few minutes, you must still get immediate help because you could have had a ‘mini-stroke’, which could lead into a full-blown stroke.
Stroke Prevention: Know Your Risk Factors
There are certain risk factors that increase your chances of having a stroke. Even though anyone can have a stroke at any time, knowing the risk factors for strokes is one of the first steps in stroke prevention. The risk factors fall into three areas- lifestyle, pre-existing medical conditions and heredity.
Pre-Existing medical conditions that can increase your risk of stroke are:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Previous strokes or ‘mini-stroke’
- Sickle cell disease
Lifestyle habits that put you at an increased risk for having a stroke include:
- Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke
- Drinking alcohol
- Lack of exercise
Finally, here are the heredity factors that increase your risk of stroke:
- Age- the older you are, the greater your risk
- Gender- men over 65 are at a greater risk than women
- Family history
- Race and ethnicity: Blacks, American Indians, Alaskan natives, and Hispanics are at a greater risk for strokes
What You Can Do For Stroke Prevention
Now that you know the risk factors for strokes, you can begin a stroke prevention program that corrects as many of the risk factors that you can.
- Lower high triglycerides
- Lower high cholesterol
- Reduce high blood pressure
- Prevent diabetes or, if you have it, manage it very well
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol use to occasional, if you drink at all
- Stay within a healthy weight range
- Exercise- the current guidelines are at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise everyday
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies
If you are at a high risk for having a stroke, it is essential that you work closely with your health care provider in setting up a personalized plan for stroke prevention.
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