What Is a Stroke?
A stroke or “brain attack” happens when a blood clot blocks arteries or blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the body. Clots in the body can interrupt blood flow to areas of the brain and kill brain cells that are critical to the brain’s function. Here are 10 tips to help prevent strokes.
Your Healthcare Provider
One of the most important factors in preventing stroke is having annual physicals with a trusted healthcare provider. Your doctor is a good source of information about your individual lifestyle and health needs and will help you make long-term decisions about your health. A physician should also be a good source of current information about stroke prevention.
Know your Risks
The most influential risk factor for cardiovascular disease is age. Older people have a greater risk of stroke. The second factor is your genetic heritage. Your risk is greater if your parents, grandparents, or other relatives have heart disease, diabetes, or stroke. Inform your healthcare provider about your family medical history.
Know Stroke Symptoms
The acronym F.A.S.T. is a short way to remember stroke symptoms.
Face Drooping: Does one side of the person’s face droop or is one side numb? Ask the person to smile and check to see if the smile is uneven.
Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms and check to see if one arm drifts downward.
Speech Difficulty: Is the person’s speech slurred or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like “The sun is warm.” Does the person have trouble repeating a simple sentence correctly?
Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms temporarily go away, call 9-1-1. Get the person to the hospital immediately to see a doctor who can diagnose and treat the problem.
Cigarette smoking and exposure to smoke, whether second-hand or third-hand particle contamination, increases the risks of heart disease and stroke.
Limit your drinking of alcohol. Drinking alcohol is a contributing factor to high blood pressure and stroke.
Walking two miles a day is best for overall health but other exercise such as swimming is also good. Consult with your physician before starting an exercise program so you can integrate exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes in a healthful manner.
Limit your calories.
Being overweight is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Talk to your healthcare provider about a sensible plan for cutting calories and losing weight. Do not use fad diets on your own because these have medical risks.
Learn to relax. Stress and not then being able to sleep contributes to heart attack and stroke risk. Also talk to your doctor if you snore during sleep or have trouble breathing at night. Sleep apnea is a common disorder where you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. These interruptions in breathing steal oxygen from the brain and heighten your risk of stroke.
Maintain a Healthy Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, called hypertension, is “the silent killer” because it goes without symptoms in most people. High blood pressure causes wear and tear of the delicate inner lining of your blood vessels, including those of the brain. Consult a physician about reducing high blood pressure through medication, and lifestyle changes.
Monitor your Cholesterol (blood lipids)
Abnormal or high blood lipids (fats) are a major contributor to heart disease and stroke. Your blood lipids include the LDL (bad cholesterol or “Lousy cholesterol”), HDL (good cholesterol or “Healthy cholesterol,” and triglycerides. A physician can determine the amount of LDL and HDL in your blood. A lower LDL and a higher HDL will help you prevent a stroke.