In the U.S. someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds – or 800,000 strokes each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is one of the leading causes of death and disability and can strike at any time. Nearly 25 percent of all strokes happen to people under the age of 65. The good news – as many as 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by working with a health care provider to properly manage risk factors.
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when either blood flow is cut off to the brain, an ischemic stroke, or a blood vessel bursts either in or around the brain, a hemorrhagic stroke. It is also referred to as a brain attack. When a stroke occurs, brain cells may be damaged or die when blood flow is cut off for more than four minutes. As a result, the areas of the brain affected may suffer permanent or temporary damage, which can vary from mild to severe. Receiving treatment as soon as possible is critical to reducing damage and disability. Strokes can also be fatal.
Signs of a Stroke
The National Stroke Association developed an easy to remember acronym (FAST) to help identify the signs of a stroke to help more people recognize when a stroke is occurring to speed time to treatment. This infographic explains changes in the face, arms and speech.
Reduce Your Risk
Working closely with a health care provider, you can reduce the risk of a stroke from ever occurring. It is important to remember reducing your risk is something you should consider at any age and not put off until later in life.
Hypertension – Do you know your blood pressure numbers? If you do not, have your blood pressure checked at your regular doctor visits or community health fairs. High blood pressure, anything above 140/90 millimeters of mercury, needs to be addressed through diet, exercise and possibly medication therapy. If left untreated, high blood pressure (or hypertension) is a major risk factor for stroke.
Diagnosis Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) – AFib is one of the most common heart arrhythmia disorders in the US, with as many as 5 million people affected. It can greatly increase your risk of suffering a stroke by as much as 500 percent. When AFib occurs, it can cause blood to pool and potentially form a clot and cause a stroke. Talk to your health care provider if you suspect you have symptoms of AFib.
Don’t Smoke – Smoking is another risk factor of stroke – doubling your risk. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, talk to your health care provider about a smoking cessation plan that is right for you. Smoking not only makes the heart work harder, it speeds up artery clogging, raises blood pressure, and damages the walls of vessels.
Alcohol Use – Researchers continue to connect the use of alcohol with stroke risk. Talk to your health care provider to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink if it is more than two drinks daily.
Cholesterol – If you have cholesterol levels greater than 200 mg/dL, talk to your health care provider about ways you can manage your cholesterol through diet, exercise and medication therapies. High cholesterol levels in the blood aids in the formation of clots, which can cause a stroke.
Manage Diabetes – Diabetes is a complex disorder and one that increases your risk of stroke four-fold. Many people with diabetes have other risk factors for stroke including hypertension, high cholesterol, AFib, and cardiovascular disease.
Healthy Diet and Regular Exercise – Not only are a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, and regular exercise good for reducing your stroke risk, it also reduces the risk of other risk factors. Talk to your health care provider about how to limit sodium and high-fat foods in your diet, as well as how much daily exercise you should get.
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