Stroke Prevention and Awareness Tips

a senior woman in a hospital gown listens while a doctor shows her the MRI scans of her brain

A stroke is what happens when blood flow to your brain is blocked, starving it of oxygen and glucose. It can also happen when a blood vessel in your brain bursts, usually due to years of abnormally high pressure pushing and weakening the fragile vessel until it gives way.

Most strokes are caused by the buildup of plaque within a blood vessel in the brain. This type of stroke is called ischemic and accounts for 87% of all strokes. Sometimes a blood clot or plaque breaks loose from an artery or vessel elsewhere in the body, travels to your brain, and gets stuck in a blood vessel there. The result is the same: brain cells are starved and suffocated.

Hemorrhagic strokes, when a weakened vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain, make up about 13% of stroke cases. Taken together, hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of long-term disabilities. Depending on the location and extent of the damage, stroke can cause mild to severe paralysis, weakness, problems with thinking, problems with speaking, and emotional problems.

The good news is that up to 80% of strokes can be prevented with healthy lifestyle changes.

 

Stroke prevention: 4 ways to reduce your risk of stroke

 

  1. Eat healthy ­– High blood pressure and high cholesterol increase your chances of having a stroke. Limiting salt in your diet can lower blood pressure. Eating foods low in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol, and high in fiber, can prevent high cholesterol. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet and choose healthy sources of protein, such as beans, nuts and fish.

 

  1. Stay active – Being physically active can help you lose weight and keep your cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels. The Surgeon General recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Going for a brisk walk or climbing stairs are easy ways to get your exercise in and reduce your risk of stroke.

 

  1. Don’t smoke – Smoking damages the heart and blood vessels. If you don’t smoke, don’t start (and avoid second-hand smoke). If you do smoke, there are nicotine patches and prescriptions that can help manage withdrawal symptoms. You can also get help by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or by talking to your doctor.

 

  1. Drink less alcohol – Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure and cholesterol. So if you do enjoy a drink now and then, do so in moderation: no more than two drinks a day for men and one a day for women.

 

Know the signs of stroke.

Many different symptoms can occur depending on which part of the brain is affected. By knowing the signs of stroke and taking quick action, you can help avoid a lifelong disability or worse.

Stroke symptoms:

  • Feeling weak or numb on one side of your face or body
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • 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 think you or someone you know is having a stroke, call 911 immediately. The sooner you can get to the hospital, the better your chances for stroke recovery. Don’t be tempted to drive yourself. Wait for the ambulance to arrive and make sure the front door is unlocked for the EMTs. Clot-busting medication can help reduce long-term effects of ischemic strokes if you are treated in time. For a hemorrhagic stroke, you’ll probably need surgery to repair a broken blood vessel.

 

Rehabilitation can help you regain lost skills.

Generally, the sooner rehabilitation begins, the greater the chances to regain lost skills and function. At Freedom Plaza in Sun City Center, we offer both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs to help you reach your stroke recovery goals and achieve the best possible quality of life. For more information about senior rehabilitation for stroke recovery at Freedom Plaza, contact us.