National Stroke Association wants you to know what risk factors are associated with stroke and how to prevent stroke happening to you or your loved ones. Stroke can happen to anyone, at any age, and at any time. In the U.S., stroke is the fifth leading cause of death, killing nearly 130,000 people each year.
There are many risk factors for stroke. Some, such as gender, ethnicity, and age, are uncontrollable. Others are controllable. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and should be checked yearly. Other controllable risk factors include high cholesterol, transient ischemic attack (TIA), diabetes, obesity, and heart conditions—such as atrial fibrillation.
But up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Taking control is the first step to managing your risk.
If you are healthy, participate in moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least 40 minutes per day, three to four times per week.
Watch your diet.
Consider reducing sodium intake to less than 2300 mg/day and consider diets rich in fruits and vegetables such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or Mediterranean diets.
Know your numbers.
Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels in check.
Know your family medical history.
If high blood pressure and diabetes are common conditions, it’s important you ask your doctor what you can do to prevent them.
Studies show a strong connection between alcohol and stroke so make sure to moderate your alcohol intake. No more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.
Smoking decreases your health in general, but smokers also have 2-4 times the risk for stroke compared to nonsmokers and those who have quit for more than 10 years.
Most people don’t know the warning signs of stroke or what to do when one happens. Stroke is an emergency. But acting quickly can tremendously reduce the impact of stroke. A stroke is a brain attack that occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. Brain cells begin to die. Recognizing stroke symptoms can be easy if you remember to think FAST:
F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. When you can spot the signs, you'll know that you need to call 9-1-1 for help right away. F: Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven? A: Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? S: Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly? T: Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared.
Other stroke symptoms: Sudden confusion, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden trouble walking or loss of balance, sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Remember: Call 9-1-1 if you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency.