May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Stroke occurs when not enough blood, which carries oxygen throughout the body, gets to the brain. This usually happens because an artery breaks or gets blocked by a blood clot. It may happen suddenly, but often occurs after a slow build-up of fat and calcium in the blood vessels, called “hardening” of the arteries” or atherosclerosis. The physical results depend on what part of the brain is affected, such as partial or total paralysis of a limb, to difficulty speaking or loss of memory.
Stroke is a leading cause of death in the US, with one person dying every 4 minutes as a result. For African Americans, stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death. However, African-Americans can improve their odds of preventing and beating stroke by understanding its risks, and taking simple steps to address them.
above 50 years of age
hypertension or high blood pressure
high blood cholesterol
Minorities have higher stroke risks, develop stroke at an earlier age, and for some, develop more severe strokes. Although certain risk factors for stroke, such as genetics or family history cannot be controlled, others such as hypertension can. Knowing one’s risk factors for stroke and controlling them is the first step in preventing a stroke.
Key Warning Signals for Stroke:
temporary weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg
temporary difficulty or loss of speech
sudden, temporary loss of vision in one eye temporary double vision;
temporary change in personality or mental ability.
For any of the above warning signals of stroke, contact a physician at once.
Approaches to Help Prevent Stroke:
Control high blood pressure by regular monitoring, and if one is on medication, be sure to take it regularly
Eat healthy (Health Power Eat Healthy Tip Sheets No. 1 and 2 have very helpful information)
Control diabetes if you have it
Don’t smoke – Want to Quit Smoking? View Health Power’s Quit Smoking Tip Sheets
A healthy diet can help you reduce the risk of chronic diseases, improve your overall health, and help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Eating healthy means making informed decisions about food choices and balancing one’s calories. Physical activity includes anything that gets your body moving. A recent study showed that people who exercise five or more times per week have a reduced stroke risk. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke when compared to a nonsmoker. Smoking increases clot formation, thickens blood, and increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. Smokers should try as hard as possible to stop, and ask their doctor about quit-smoking aids like nicotine patches, counseling, and programs. Quitting smoking can be difficult, so those who are not successful the first time they try, should try again and even more than twice, if necessary.
Prevent stroke happening to you or others by following these guidelines:
- Identify. Review the risk factors and identify your personal risk.
- Reduce your risk factors. Work to reduce your stroke risk through lifestyle changes and if necessary, medication.
- Recognize and Respond. Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Respond to the first sign of stroke, as it will help save lives.
Certain risk factors can increase a person’s chances of having a stroke, and those risk factors that can be controlled, should be. If you have identified personal risk factors, work with your healthcare provider to reduce your personal risk.
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!