SEVERAL FACTORS MAKE IT MORE LIKELY that you will suffer from a stroke. Today we’ll explore who is at risk and the signs and symptoms of a stroke. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, so I want to chat about “brain attacks” briefly.
A stroke happens when something interrupts the blood supply to a part of the brain or a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Either event leads to brain cell damage or death.
Our brain needs oxygen, delivered by arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood. Compromise this oxygen delivery, and brain cells begin to die within minutes. Unfortunately, may suffer long-lasting damage, disability, or death.
Let’s briefly explore some lifestyle habits and health conditions that can raise your risk for stroke. We’ll end with fice ways you might drop your chances of having a stroke.
Stroke risk factors
The American College of Cardiology explains that several risk factors can increase the probability you will have a stroke:
- Older age. While a stroke can occur at any age, the risk doubles every decade between 55 and 85 years.
- High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for a stroke.
- Race: Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to experience a stroke.
- Smoking can cause blood clots and raise blood pressure.
- Mini-strokes, or TIAs (transient ischemic attacks).
- Physical inactivity
- Being obese.
- High cholesterol.
You may have noticed that many of the risk factors for stroke also apply to heart disease. High blood pressure (hypertension), a sedentary lifestyle, excessive weight, and elevated cholesterol can negatively affect your heart or blood vessels.
Also, some heart problems can increase your stroke risk. These heart conditions include atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat), disorders of the heart valves, and enlargement of a heart chamber. With any of these problems, clots can break loose and interrupt the blood supply to the brain.
Stroke: My risk reduction action plan
My father died of a stroke related to atrial fibrillation. I am more committed to practicing stroke risk-reducing maneuvers. Here is my action plan:
I know that getting adequate physical activity is one of the single best ways that I can reduce my risk of a heart or brain event. I never use the excuse that I don’t have time; I can always walk ten minutes thrice daily (or get up every 45 minutes to walk a minimum of 75 steps).
2. Know your numbers
I keep an eye on my blood pressure and cholesterol. No excuses.
3. Manage stress
Managing stress is not something I historically thought about much. Now I know not to let my mind get the better of me. Chronic stress increases stress hormones and chemicals that promote inflammation in my body and brain.
The answer for me? I do deep breathing and mindfulness-based meditation to counteract stress. Exercise helps, as do activities (such as practicing the piano) that allow me to unplug.
4. Watch your weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is worth the effort. Even dropping a few pounds can improve my heart health. The American College of Cardiology reminds us that “many studies have shown that people who store excess fat around their midsection are at much greater risk for several health problems. These illnesses include heart disease, stroke, sudden cardiac death, certain cancers, and dementia.
A heart-healthy diet is a way to lower your risk of a stroke. Here’s a guide:Heart-Healthy Diets | CardioSmart – American College of CardiologyWhat it is: Although there isn’t a single Mediterranean diet, this eating plan commonly emphasizes: Fresh fruits and…www.cardiosmart.org
If a stroke happens, it is important to get the individual to the hospital as soon as possible. Here are some of the symptoms to look for: