Did you know that a majority of strokes are preventable? According to the American Stroke Association, up to 80% of strokes can be prevented by not smoking, making healthy food choices, getting enough physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and treating chronic conditions such as high blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
We’ve already covered the Key Differences Between a Heart Attack, Sudden Cardiac Arrest, and Stroke but in observance of American Stroke Month, we’re going to share some important facts about stroke, the warning signs of a stroke, and dive into a few ways you can reduce your likelihood of having a stroke.
5 Key Facts About Stroke
FACT #1: Stroke kills brain cells
A stroke happens when a clot or rupture interrupts blood flow to the brain. Without oxygen-rich blood, brain cells die.
FACT #2: There are three types of stroke
- Ischemic (caused by a clot)
- Hemorrhagic (caused by a rupture)
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or “mini-stroke” (caused by a temporary blockage)
FACT #3: About one in four stroke survivors is at risk for another
Fortunately, up to 80% of second clot-related strokes may be preventable.
FACT #4: Prevention is key
If you’ve already had a stroke, create a plan with your doctor to prevent another. Your plan may include managing high blood pressure and discussing aspirin (which is a blood thinner) or other medications. If you are at elevated risk for stroke due to chronic health conditions like high cholesterol, blood sugar, or blood pressure, you may want to discuss ways to manage your condition with your doctor.
FACT #5: Time lost is brain lost
Some brain cells start dying less than five minutes after their oxygen supply disappears, so it’s critically important to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and to act quickly.
Source: American Stroke Association
Do You Know How to Spot a Stroke?
Time to call 911
Ways to Prevent a Stroke
If you read 5 Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease, some of these tips for preventing a stroke may seem familiar. If not, we added a few for good measure!
Monitor your blood pressure
High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and is one of the most telling risk factors. Normal blood pressure falls below 120/80 — if you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to lower it.
Control your cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that occurs in blood and it can be produced by the body or found in the foods you consume. When your arteries are blocked by fatty deposits, normal blood flow to the brain can become blocked and may cause a stroke. Shoot for a total cholesterol count of under 200. If yours is high, talk to your doctor about changing your diet, developing an exercise plan, or taking cholesterol-lowering medications
Keep an eye on your blood sugar
A fasting blood sugar level less than 100 mg/dL is considered normal. Make sure your doctor is conducting regular screenings for diabetes, because diabetes more than doubles your risk of stroke!
Get active, stay active!
Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. You don’t need to do it all at once, either! Go for a quick walk after lunch, take the dog for an extra spin around the block, have a dance party with your grandkids, park as far away from a store’s entrance as possible, take the stairs, and just keep moving!
Include fruits and vegetables with every meal. Try to eat the rainbow — don’t worry, fresh, frozen, and canned all count.
If you smoke, quit
We covered this at length in November, during the Great American Smokeout, but if you smoke, it’s time to quit. You can do it.
Make the “I will not have a stroke” pledge today! #StrokeAwarenessMoth