May is National Stroke Awareness Month, which makes it a great time to review the risk factors of stroke and learn what you can do to reduce your risk. It’s also important to make sure you can quickly identify the signs and symptoms of someone experiencing a stroke, since timely medical care is essential to recovery.
First let’s cover what having a stroke really means. The most common type is an Ischemic stroke. This occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain. This causes brain cells to be deprived of oxygen and begin to die. Depending on the severity and location of the stroke, some may only experience minor or temporary side effects, while others may be permanently paralyzed on one side of their body or lose the ability to speak.
Your risk of having a stroke depends on many factors you can control and a few you cannot. High blood pressure, Atrial Fibrillation, high cholesterol, diabetes, circulation problems, and carotid artery disease all increase your risk of stroke. Lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, limited exercise, tobacco use, and heavy alcohol consumption can also increase your risk of stroke.
Here are some great ways you can work with your health care provider to reduce your risk:
- Know your blood pressure.
- Find out whether you have atrial fibrillation.
- If you smoke, stop.
- Find out if you have high cholesterol.
- If diabetic, follow recommendations to control your diabetes.
- Include exercise in your daily routine.
- Reduce the sodium and fat in your diet.
Recognizing the symptoms of a stroke is also very important. A person loses almost 2 million neurons during each minute a stroke goes untreated. If you observe or experience any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately and let them know you suspect a stroke:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you’d like to discuss your risk factors for stroke, call the Earlham Medical Clinic at (515) 758-2907 or Health Trust Physicians Clinic in Winterset at (515) 462-2950 to schedule an appointment to talk with a physician.
We thank the National Stroke Association for providing this information.