Be Your Own Health Hero
Every 40 seconds, in the United States, someone has a stroke. Every four minutes, someone dies because of a stroke.
When it comes to strokes, time is vital. According to the American Heart Association, stroke is the nation’s fifth most common killer and a leading cause of long-term disability. A stroke can occur in two ways — when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot (called an ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain, resulting in bleeding (called a hemorrhagic stroke).
When this happens, part of the brain cannot get needed blood and oxygen; the brain cells can become damaged and die.
Almost 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by controlling certain risk factors. Decrease your risk of having a stroke by making these simple changes for a healthier life.
•Be aware of your risk factors.
These include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and tobacco use. Being overweight or obese, drinking excessive alcohol and low physical activity can also contribute.
•Improve your eating habits.
Eat moderate amounts by exercising portion control and cut down on saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and salt. Ask your doctor, a nurse, a licensed nutritionist or a registered dietitian for help.
Build up to at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking 30 minutes a day–five days each week. Check with your doctor before you start any exercise program.
•Decrease your stress level.
Take breaks for yourself, and slow down. Try meditation or breathing techniques to help alleviate stress.
•Commit to stop smoking.
Ask your family and friends to support you, and ask your healthcare provider for information and programs that may help.
•Have regular medical checkups.
Have your blood pressure checked regularly, and work with your healthcare provider to manage it if it’s high.
Along with taking preventive measures, recognizing the symptoms of a stroke can save lives. Using the AHA’s acronym F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the signs of a stroke:
F – Face drooping:
Is one side of the face drooping down? Ask the individual to smile. If a person’s smile is uneven, it can indicate a stroke.
A – Arm weakness:
Can the person raise both arms, or is one arm weak?
S – Speech difficulty:
Is speech slurred or confusing?
T – Time to call 9-1-1:
Time is critical. If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the individual to the hospital immediately. If possible, keep track of the time passed since the symptoms first occurred.
“Time is brain,” meaning the faster a stroke is treated, the less brain damage occurs. Any delay in recognition of symptoms of a stroke and treatment can be detrimental. Survival rates and a person’s functional outcome can depend on minutes. For every minute a stroke goes untreated, nearly 2 million brain cells die, according to the AHA.
To learn more about ways you can prevent stroke, visit: StLukes-StL.com.
Dr. Frasat Chaudhry specializes in neurology at the Orthwein Brain and Spine Center at St. Luke’s Hospital.