What is a stroke? A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (ie ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die.
Simply put, a stroke is to your brain what a heart attack is to your heart.
Strokes affect 795,000 a year. Historically, strokes have been an affliction of older adults. The data now shows that this is changing. According to www.heart.org, new cases of strokes are growing at a faster rate among younger and middle-aged adults than older ones.
Know your numbers and risks
It’s essential to know your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels which are strong indicators of your cardiovascular health and stroke risk.
You are at greater risk for a stroke if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, smoke, take oral contraceptives, have a history of having mini strokes (TIAs), have a high red blood cell count, high blood cholesterol and lipids, don’t exercise, are obese, excessively use alcohol, use illegal drugs, have an abnormal heart rhythm or have damaged heart valves.
Increase your fruits and veggies in your diet – this helps to reduce your intake of cholesterol, bad fats and sodium while still filling you up. Many choose to follow the Mediterranean diet as it helps increase your intake of fruits and veggies since it’s shown to be the best for your overall health. It consists of lean meat, fish, fruits, veggies and whole grains.
Avoid high cholesterol foods like red meat, fried food and butter.
Eat foods rich in omega-3: fish, flaxseed. The American Heart Association recommends at least 2 servings of fatty fish each week such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring.
Limit alcohol. Alcohol can raise blood pressure which is a risk factor for strokes.
Cut down your salt intake; no more than 1500 mg a day.
Drink lots of water.
Know the signs
Stroke symptoms can be summed in an acronym: BE FAST, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Neurologist Blake Buletko recommends being familiar with the signs, because you should "never assume you're exempt from having a stroke.”
Balance: Watch out for a sudden loss of balance or coordination.
Eyes: Note any vision loss in one or both eyes, or double vision.
Face: Watch for drooping on one side of the face.
Arms: Note any sudden weakness in an arm or leg.
Speech: Note any slurred speech or difficulty speaking or understanding words
Time: Call 911 quickly if someone is experiencing any of these symptoms.
In conclusion, knowledge is truly power and in this case prevention. Data shows that 80% of strokes can be prevented. Knowing what to do and look for and committing to change can literally prevent you from having a stroke. Lastly, in the words of Maya Angelou “when we know better, we do better!”