Category: Stroke

What You Can Do to Help Prevent Stroke

Prevent Stroke

 

May is American Stroke Awareness Month, and at Regional Neurological Associates, part of our mission is to educate our patients, and the general population, on stroke signs and symptoms, risk factors, and prevention methods. We pride ourselves on providing cutting edge neurological care, including stroke recovery. However, the best-case scenario for us is early detection, or, even better, prevention of the stroke.

When it comes to the brain and neurological health, it can seem like there is little we can do to influence it. However, that’s not the case. Steps can be taken to reduce your risk of certain conditions. Changing bad habits and making healthier lifestyle choices are often a key part of maintaining overall wellness, including neurological health.

So, let’s examine some important steps to take to help prevent a stroke.

Know What a Stroke Is

The CDC defines a stroke as an episode that “occurs when something blocks blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.

Lose Weight & Exercise

Being overweight and sedentary increase your risk of having a stroke, partly because obesity and inactivity are often associated with hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. All of these things increase the risk of an ischemic stroke.

If you’re looking to get into an exercise routine and you’re not sure where to start, plan to work out for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Curb Drinking

Drinking too much alcohol can raise both your triglycerides and your blood pressure. A two drink per day limit is recommended for men and a one drink per day limit is recommended for women. Another adverse effect of alcohol is that binge drinking can cause irregular heartbeat. Having four or five drinks in a two-hour period is considered binge drinking.

Quit Smoking

Giving up smoking is always a good idea, especially when it comes to preventing circulatory diseases. Nicotine can cause high blood pressure and carbon monoxide can lower blood oxygen. Tobacco also has a long list of adverse effects on vascular health such as: increasing plaque buildup, lowering levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, thickening and narrowing blood vessels, and making blood more likely to clot.

Pay Attention to Nutrition

Diet should be part of your overall wellness plan and contribute to any weight loss plan necessary. However, let’s look at some specific food types to avoid and foods to seek out when trying to prevent stroke.

Avoid:

  • Sodium/salt
  • Trans & saturated fats (high cholesterol)
  • Processed foods containing the above

Choose:

  • Lean protein
  • Leafy greens
  • Fresh fruits & vegetables
  • Foods high in potassium

Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is responsible for more than 50% of strokes, making it the number one cause. Hypertension can increase your chances of having a stroke by four to six times. High blood pressure can cause build up or structural weakness in arteries that can either create blocks to the brain’s blood supply or cause a hemorrhage.

Identify, Monitor and Treat Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat, causes clots within the heart. Those clots can travel up to the brain and cause a stroke.

Be Vigilant About Treating Diabetes

Diabetes can add fifteen years to your cardiovascular age. Meaning, if not treated properly, diabetes can cause a lot of damage to your blood vessels, which can, in turn, increase blood pressure and even a stroke.

Aggressively Treat Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

If you have previously had a TIA, your risk of having a stroke much greater. Make sure you are consulting with your physician and monitoring your progress.

Get Familiar with the Warning Signs of Stroke

If you know what a stroke is, you might already be familiar with the symptoms of a stroke. They can include:

  • Unsteadiness on your feet
  • Vision loss
  • Unusual severe headache
  • Numbness of the face
  • Weakness on one side of the body

One device that helps some people remember the warning signs of stroke is using the acronym FAST.

F: Face – does it droop to one side?

A: Arms – does one arm drift back down when you lift both?

S: Speech – is it slurred or sound odd?

T: Time – call 911 immediately if any of these signs occur.

If you are concerned about the possibility of stroke, schedule an appointment by calling (718) 515-4347. The physicians at Regional Neurological Associates can assist you whether you’re worried about showing the warning signs of stroke, have had a stroke and need help with recovery, or have another neurological issue.

If you think you or someone you love has suffered a stroke, call 911 immediately.

6 Treatable Risk Factors of Stroke

risk factors of stroke

Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, with someone dying of stroke every 4 minutes. It is the leading cause of serious long-term disability and overall, the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. But, did you know that many of the leading causes of stroke are preventable?

Here are six treatable risk factors of stroke that you can control by making healthy choices and managing existing health conditions:

1. Smoking

Smoking cigarettes doubles your risk of ischemic stroke and increases your risk of hemorrhagic stroke by four times. Those who smoke are also at increased risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer. Of course, the best thing you can do is to not start smoking in the first place. But, if you already have, it’s never too late to quit. If you are unable to quit smoking on your own, talk to your healthcare provider about quit-smoking aids such as nicotine patches, medications, counseling and other programs that may be available to you.

2. High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading risk factor for stroke. In the United States, an estimated 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure with only slightly half having the condition under control. It is important to check your blood pressure regularly and understand your numbers and risk factors because there are often no warning signs or symptoms. In many cases, high blood pressure can be prevented and managed with simple lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

3. Heart Disease

The term heart and blood vessel disease, or simply heart disease, can be misleading does not refer to a single condition. Instead, it is an umbrella term used to describe several types of conditions that affect the heart including coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, heart infections and congenital heart defects.

Many of these conditions are related to a process called atherosclerosis which develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries within the heart. This buildup of plaque causes the arteries to narrow and restricts the ability for blood to flow through. If the buildup forms a clot that blocks the blood flow entirely, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. As with high blood pressure, you can help lower your risk of heart disease by eating a balanced diet and participating in regular physical activity. Not smoking, managing your weight and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption can also help.

4. Diabetes

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in terms of stroke and cardiovascular disease, having diabetes is the equivalent of aging 15 years. Not only does diabetes affect the body’s ability to process sugar, but also destructive changes to the blood vessel throughout your body, including the brain. While in some cases, diabetes is caused by uncontrollable genetic factors, often times it can be prevented and managed by implementing healthy lifestyle habits.

5. Cholesterol Imbalance

There are two types of cholesterol–low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol” an excess of LDL can cause cholesterol to build up in the blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis, or cardiovascular disease. As previously mentioned, this narrowing of the blood vessels is also a leading cause of stroke. Ways to improve the balance of your cholesterol levels include reducing consumption of saturated and trans fats and increasing your intake of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

6. Physical Inactivity and Obesity

Sedentary lifestyles and obesity have grown to become a widespread health concern, as they have been proven to be associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. The World Health Organization reports that obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. For adults, overweight is defined as a body mass index greater than or equal to 25, and obesity as a BMI greater than or equal to 30. Due to inflammation caused by excess fatty tissue, obesity can increase the risk of stroke due to inflammation caused by excess fatty tissue.

When a Stroke Occurs

While it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce the risk of stroke, it is equally important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke, as well as how to respond. If think you or someone you loved has suffered a stroke, call 911 immediately.

If the occurrence of a stroke is confirmed, the physicians at Regional Neurological Associates can help guide you through the process of stroke recovery, including identifying risk factors to help reduce the risk of recurrence. To schedule an appointment, call (718) 515-4347.