May is American Stroke Awareness Month. Stroke is the fifth main cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. Would you recognize the symptoms of a stroke? Sudden difficulty moving your arms or legs, confusion, dizziness, headache, difficulty speaking, or trouble seeing in one or both eyes are all signs of a possible stroke. Hopefully, none of us will ever be in that position, but remembering the acronym FAST can be a lifesaver.
F Face – When asked to smile does one side of the face droop?
A Arms - When asked to raise both arms does one arm drift downward?
S Speech - When asked to repeat a simple sentence is speech slurred?
T Time - Call 911 immediately if any of these signs are present.
Time is of the utmost importance in treating a stroke! Call an ambulance so life-saving drugs can be started immediately.
The best defense for stroke prevention is a healthy lifestyle which includes:
Eating healthy - Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Choose lean protein with emphasis on more fish and poultry (without the skin). Maintain normal cholesterol and blood pressure readings by limiting sodium intake and eating more plant-based foods. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke. Check out a proven blood pressure lowering and overall healthy eating plan known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/dash_brief.pdf. The DASH plan is lower in added sugars, sodium, red meats, and fats overall than what most Americans eat. It is also abundant in fruits and vegetables and includes non-fat or low-fat dairy, beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains, fish, and poultry.
Maintaining a healthy weight - Obesity is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes which are all risk for stroke.
Regular physical activity - Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity.
Do not smoke - Smoking doubles your risk of stroke. Smoking increases blood pressure and is linked to the build-up of fatty substances in the main artery supplying blood to the brain.
Alcohol only in moderation - If you drink do so in moderation. More than two drinks a day can raise blood pressure. Moderation is no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Manage your diabetes - Having diabetes significantly increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. Uncontrolled diabetes can damage blood vessels throughout the whole body, including the brain.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/