Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

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A stroke is potentially one of the most devastating and disabling conditions a patient can have.

Nearly 700,000 of them occur in the United States each year, making it the leading cause

of disability and the fourth leading cause of death in adults.

I’m Dr. Andy Ringer of Mayfield Brain & Spine in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I’d like to talk

to you today about what you can do to reduce your risk of having a stroke.

While there are several risk factors that you cannot control, there are several that

you can control, and I’d like to share my 7 favorite tips to help you reduce your risk of stroke.

The first step is control your blood pressure.

There’s a reason they call hypertension the silent killer.

You don’t feel it.

It doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms.

It doesn’t cause pain or discomfort.

But it eats away at inside of the walls of your arteries and it can lead to problems

with blood flow to many different organs of your body,

the most sensitive of which are the heart and the brain.

This is why hypertension is considered a major risk factor for both heart attack and stroke.

The best way to treat this is to see your doctor.

Have your blood pressure measured, and identify whether it is in the safe range or not.

And while some cases of hypertension might be treated with diet and exercise, many require medications

and you’ll have to take those medications religiously for the rest of your life.

You can’t stop taking those medications just because you feel good because, again,

that hypertension is silent.

The second step to reduce your risk of stroke is to control your blood cholesterol.

Like high blood pressure, this is something you won’t feel or notice but builds up in your blood system

based on how your body metabolizes certain nutrients.

Some of us can control our cholesterol with diet and exercise, but in many cases your

body’s ability may not metabolize cholesterol as well as someone else’s,

and you may require medication.

Talk to your doctor about whether your cholesterol is in the safe range, and if not, what medications

might help you keep it under control.

A third way to reduce your risk of having a stroke is to control diabetes.

Diabetes is a less common but very dangerous condition that can cause damage to the walls

of the blood vessels that feeding the blood flow to your brain and heart and other organs.

Diabetic patients clearly have a higher risk of having a stroke.

And controlling diabetes may reduce the damage to those blood vessels

and reduce your risk of having a stroke significantly.

In addition to controlling high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes, there

are other lifestyle changes that might help reduce your risk of stroke.

And this brings us to our next two steps.

Our fourth step is to avoid smoking.

You’ve heard it a million times.

Smoking is bad for you.

No doubt about it.

In addition to increasing your risk for numerous types of cancer, smoking is a significant

risk factor for both heart attack and stroke.

And quitting or avoiding smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.

Step No. 5 is maintaining an ideal body weight.

Obesity is well recognized risk factor for numerous disease processes, including stroke.

And maintaining a good body weight helps you reduce the risk of these diseases,

and reduce your risk of stroke.

Talk to your physician about a heart-healthy diet that will help you to do so.

Step No. 6 is getting regular exercise.

Regular physical exertion on a daily basis, at least 20 minutes, has numerous health benefits,

among them including your risk of stroke.

So get out and walk, get some exercise, play a game, but be active.

Our final step is to be aware of a condition called atrial fibrillation.

This is an irregular heartbeat that causes one of the chambers of the heart, the atrium,

to beat in an irregular fashion.

The result is that the blood flowing through this chamber does so in an irregular way,

in a slow fashion, and may form blood clots on the inside wall of the heart.

These blood clots if they break free can go through the arteries that feed the brain,

plug them, and result in a stroke.

You may have some symptoms from atrial fibrillation, such as a funny, fluttery feeling in your

chest, but it may go unnoticed as well.

So this is something you should have checked when you are seeing your doctor.

While checking your blood pressure and your pulse, your physician can identify the irregularity

in your heartbeat that is associated with atrial fibrillation and diagnose it with a

heart test known as an electrocardiogram or an EKG.

Patients with atrial fibrillation need to take a blood thinner, which is a medically

proven way of reducing the risk of having a stroke from this condition.

And finally, if despite all of these steps a stroke does happen, it’s important to

understand the signs and symptoms of stroke and what to do if you see them.

We like to use the mnemonic F-A-S-T.

The letter F stands for facial weakness or numbness.

If the face looks asymmetrical or feels numb on the one side, that might indicate a sign of stroke.

A is for arm.

If one arm goes weak or numb or clumsy, while the other arm stays strong, that might also

indicate symptoms of a stroke.

S is for slurred speech or difficulty speaking, which is a very common symptom of stroke.

T is for time.

Time is valuable and time is brain.

If you have symptoms of a stroke or your loved one has symptoms of a stroke,

it’s time to call 9-1-1.

I hope you have found this information helpful and that you will take time and care

to reduce your risk of having a stroke.

Your loved ones will thank you for it.

For more information about stroke or other neurologic conditions, please visit mayfieldclinic.com