May is National Stroke Awareness Month!
Steps to Manage Stroke Risk
A healthy heart and a healthy brain are crucial to health in old age. There are many simple and effective lifestyle changes you can make that will reduce your chance of all types of stroke, heart disease, and likely dementia later in life.
- Control high blood pressure. Know your blood pressure! If left unchecked, high blood pressure can damage the cells of your arteries’ inner lining and cause a hardening called arteriosclerosis, blocking blood flow to your heart, brain, and kidneys, as well as to your muscles.
- Quit smoking. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including the heart. Any amount of smoking, even light or occasional smoking, damages the heart and blood vessels.
- Lower high cholesterol. Reducing high cholesterol will lower your risk for developing a wide variety of serious health issues, including stroke and heart disease.
- Eat healthy and keep active. Following a healthy eating plan and keeping physically active on a regular basis will significantly lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic and debilitating health problems.
- Manage your diabetes. Having diabetes or pre-diabetes puts you at increased risk for stroke and heart disease. You can lower your risk by keeping your blood glucose (blood sugar), blood pressure, and blood cholesterol close to the recommended target numbers provided by your doctor.
- Avoid the use of illicit drugs and heavy consumption of alcohol.Generally, an increase in alcohol consumption leads to an increase in blood pressure. The use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, can cause stroke.
- Stick to the plan. This is the hard part, but keeping your heart and brain as healthy as you can will lead to better overall health as you age.
- Start early! Preventing stroke and heart disease is more effective if started in midlife. Studies also find that controlling blood pressure may also reduce risk of dementia.
Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T.
Face Drooping / Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
Arm Weakness / Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty / Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 9-1-1 / If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.
Beyond F.A.S.T. – other symptoms you should know:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg
- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause