I suffer from high blood pressure and have a family history of heart disease. As I age I become more at risk for a stroke. Below is an overview of what a stroke is and the steps I have taken to lower my future risk of having one.
I inherited my high blood pressure from my mom. Her side of the family has a long history of heart disease. My grandfather died of a heart attack at the age of 50. My mom’s younger brother died of a heart attack or possible stroke at the age of 30. My mom’s older brother suffered two heart attacks and more recently a stroke that causes him debilitating migraines. My brother has an inverted heart. My mom has a heart murmur and the chronic blood pressure, even after medicine, a low sodium diet, and exercise.
According to the U.S. National Library of medicine, a stroke is caused by a loss of blood flow to the brain. This lack of blood and oxygen kills brain cells, causing death or permanent damage. Sometimes blood is blocked from the brain by a blood clot. In other instances plaque clogs arteries, blocking the passage of blood and oxygen to the brain. A weak blood vessel can also burst, flooding the brain with too much blood.
High blood pressure is the largest risk factor for strokes. Other risk factors include diabetes and high cholesterol. People with a family history of stroke are also at risk. Stroke risk is also high in people with certain lifestyles including people who smoke, people who are overweight due to a high fat diet, and women on birth control. The older you are the higher your risk as well.
Strokes happen without warning and are oftentimes deadly, killing a person in a split second from a embolism to the brain or a burst artery. The best way to prevent a stroke is to be aware of your risk. People at risk of a stroke can talk to their doctor about preventative measures to help lower certain types of their risk.
Doctors often prescribe blood thinners like heparin, Coumadin, aspirin, and Plavix to thin a person’s blood and make a clot less likely. Other medicines can also be prescribed to control the risk factors of a stroke, like high blood pressure medicine or diabetes medication. My mother is on high blood pressure medicine and recently added medicine to help lower her cholesterol.
I personally weaned myself off of my blood pressure medicine by watching the salt content in the foods I eat, especially when I eat out at restaurants. I occasionally still use a water pill to help flush out excessive bloating caused by too much salt, to help alleviate some of the pressure in my arteries and veins. I share recipes with my mom and we try to help each other with our commitment to a healthier lifestyle (click here to see our low sodium Easter plans).
A stroke is a very serious matter and should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately, strokes happen so fast and are so deadly that often it is too late to make any significant changes in a lifestyle. Taking the time now to evaluate your risk level and adjusting your lifestyle accordingly could mean the chance for a long, healthy life surrounded by family and friends. I know all of my sacrifices are worth it if it means more time with my parents, my husband, and my son. I would rather have more time with them that French fry any day!