Stroke: What you need to know before one happens

by Dr. Harpreet Kaur
For The Review

May is Stroke Awareness month. The American Stroke Association recommends regular checkups and treatment for various health conditions, if you have them, to lower your risk of stroke.

The likelihood of having a stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after age 55. Although stroke is more common among the elderly, a lot of people under 65 also have a stroke.

Even babies and children can sometimes have a stroke.

A family history of stroke can raise your risk. If your parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke — especially before reaching age 65 — you may be at greater risk.

Statistics show that African Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians do. This is partly because blacks have higher risks of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Your sex (gender) can affect your risks. Each year, women have more strokes than men, and stroke kills more women than men, too.

Prior stroke, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or heart attack can also raise your risk.

If you have high blood pressure (or hypertension), know your numbers and keep them low. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and the most significant controllable risk factor for stroke.

If you smoke cigarettes, take steps to stop. Recent studies confirm that cigarette smoking is a crucial risk factor for stroke.

If you have diabetes (Type 1 or 2), keep blood sugar controlled. Diabetes Mellitus is an independent risk factor for stroke. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight. This increases their risk even more.

If your diet is poor, eat foods that improve your heart and brain health. Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Diets high in sodium (salt) can increase blood pressure. Diets with high calories can lead to obesity.

If you're obese or overweight, take steps to get your body mass into a healthy range. Excess body weight and obesity are linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Losing as little as 5 to 10 pounds can make a significant difference in your risks.

If you have high blood cholesterol, get it under control. People with high blood cholesterol have an increased risk for stroke.

Know the warning signs of stroke

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, espe- cially 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

Spot a stroke B.E.F.A.S.T. an easy way to remember how to recognize a stroke and what to do.

B = sudden loss of balance

E = vision lost in one or both eyes

F= face drooping

A= arm weakness

S= speech difficulty

T= time to call 9-1-1

Calling 9-1-1 usually results in faster treatment than driving someone to the hospital emergency department.

If any of these symptoms strike suddenly, please act FAST. Don’t wait.

Dr. Harpreet Kaur specializes in internal medicine at Aurora Sheboygan Clinic,

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