Preventing and Responding to Stroke
May is National Stroke Awareness month, the perfect time to reflect on the impact that stroke has on our community and what we can all do as individuals to prevent and respond to it.
The Center for Disease Control reports that every year more than 795,000 people suffer a stroke – that’s one person every 40 seconds. These statistics were evident locally at a recent community wellness fair I attended; every person I spoke with seemed to have a friend or relative whose life has been impacted by a stroke. In light of these numbers it’s crucial to increase awareness of not only the warning signs for stroke but what we can do daily to decrease our risk of stroke.
Most people I meet are familiar with the acronym F.A.S.T., which stands for Face (the presence of a facial droop), Arm (weakness of an arm), Speech (listen for the slurring of speech) and Time (when did the symptoms start). This is a great place to start but it is important to remember that sudden confusion, sudden trouble seeing, sudden dizziness or sudden loss of coordination can also be symptoms of stroke and should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible.
The good news is that statistically up to 80% of all strokes can be prevented. Although there are some risk factors for stroke we can’t affect such as age, gender, race or family history, there are several we can.
Medical risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or cardiovascular disease can be managed by working closely with your primary care provider, which can reduce the overall impact of such conditions on your body.
Then we can turn to lifestyle risk factors, where we have the most control. A healthy lifestyle is critical in stroke prevention. This includes getting physical exercise and maintaining a healthy diet and weight. Focus on giving up unhealthy habits such as smoking, which can double your risk of stroke. Every step towards a healthier lifestyle decreases your risk of a stroke.
Andrea Blythe is the Emergency Department clinical educator and stroke coordinator at Day Kimball Hospital.