Author: Scott Robins, DO
May is stroke month. Stroke accounts for 1 of every 20 deaths in the United States, and is the leading cause of disability. Did you know that celebrities Dick Clark, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Sharon Stone have all suffered a stroke? This is a stark reminder that a stroke can happen to anyone, regardless of money or fame.
A stroke is a true emergency that requires immediate medical attention. It’s important to know the warning signs to help save a life. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you observe any of these symptoms:
- Sudden vision changes
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Numbness, tingling, weakness or loss of movement in the face, arm or leg
- Trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance
The good news is a stroke doesn’t have to be inevitable. Here are some ways you can help protect yourself:
Lower your blood pressure. By reducing salt intake, avoiding high-cholesterol foods, quitting smoking and eating right you can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of a stroke.
Maintain a healthy weight. Your odds of having a stroke go up if you are obese. By losing just 10 pounds, you are lessening your risk for stroke.
Exercise regularly. Even moderate activities like taking a walk around the block or taking the stairs instead of the elevator count as exercise.
Take baby aspirin. Taking a baby aspirin each day might help to prevent blood clots from forming, lowering your risk for stroke, especially if you’re a woman. There can be risks involved with taking aspirin, so consult your doctor before starting this measure.
Control your blood sugar. If you have diabetes, elevated blood sugar damages blood vessels over time making it more likely to form clots. Keep an eye on your blood sugar as directed.
Quit smoking. When you smoke, it accelerates clot formation by thickening your blood and increasing plaque build-up in the arteries. Talk to your doctor about ways to help you quit for good.
When it comes to stroke, every second counts. Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to protect you and your loved ones from the risks associated with having a stroke.