Since May is Stroke Awareness Month, this is the ideal time to review the risk factors and signs of stroke. According to the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, 80% of strokes are preventable by controlling risk factors, like maintaining a normal blood pressure and taking these steps to live a healthier lifestyle.
MANAGE BLOOD PRESSURE. If you have high blood pressure (or hypertension), know your numbers and keep them low. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and the most significant controllable risk factor for stroke. Many scientists attribute our current decline in stroke-related deaths to the successful treatment of high blood pressure.
CONTROL CHOLESTEROL. If you have high blood cholesterol, get it under control. People with high blood cholesterol have an increased risk for stroke. Large amounts of cholesterol in the blood can build up and cause blood clots, leading to a stroke.
REDUCE BLOOD SUGAR. If you have diabetes (Type 1 or 2), keep blood sugar controlled. Diabetes Mellitus is an independent risk factor for stroke. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight. This increases their risk even more.
GET ACTIVE. If you’re physically inactive, start moving and being more active. Physical inactivity can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, becoming overweight, developing high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes, heart disease and stroke. So go on a brisk walk, take the stairs, and do whatever you can to make your life more active. Try to get a total of at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days.
EAT BETTER. If your diet is poor, eat foods that improve your heart and brain health. Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Diets high in sodium (salt) can increase blood pressure. Diets with high calories can lead to obesity. Also, a diet containing five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day may reduce the risk of stroke.
STOP SMOKING. If you smoke cigarettes, take steps to stop. Recent studies confirm that cigarette smoking is another crucial risk factor for stroke. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system and pave the way for a stroke to occur. Additionally, the use of birth control pills combined with cigarette smoking can greatly increase the risk of stroke.
LOSE WEIGHT. If you’re obese or overweight, take steps to get your body mass into a healthy range. Excess body weight and obesity are linked with an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Losing as little as 5 to 10 pounds can make a significant difference in your risks.
Use the letters in “F-A-S-T” to spot stroke signs and know when to call 9-1-1.
F- Face Drooping. Ask the person to smile. Is it lopsided or uneven? Is there numbness?
A- Arm Weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift, is weak, or numb?
S- Speech Difficulty. Ask the person tostroke HBP repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue”. Can they repeat it correctly, or is the speech slurred?
T- Time to call 9-1-1. If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 9-1-1 immediately. Don’t delay, and note the time the symptoms first appear. Time is critical!
To learn more, visit strokeassociation.org or call 888-4-STROKE.