May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and many of us have loved ones that are at risk. Although we would like to protect those we care about from any sort of health problem, sometimes it’s just not possible. Some factors are unavoidable; gender, age, ethnicity. However, for every unavoidable factor, there are numerous factors that we can control – many of which could save someone’s life.
For the factors that we can control, it’s important to learn more about how they affect someone and how they can contribute to preventing a stroke. The more knowledge you have, the more you are able to protect the ones you love.
Lifestyle is important – not just in preventing a stroke, but for your general health and well-being. Lifestyle factors are instrumental in stroke prevention. These factors include (but not limited to):
- Diet and Nutrition: A healthy diet is important in day to day life, and one of the easiest ways to prevent a stroke from happening. A diet that includes a healthy variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and dairy is a great foundation. Diets should also limit fats – saturated and especially trans fat.
- Physical Activity: This is important to a healthy lifestyle and should include either moderate activity or vigorous-intensity activity at least two or more days per week. If it isn’t possible to do a full workout all at once, break it up throughout the day.
- Tobacco Use and Smoking: Smoking doubles the risk of a stroke compared to someone who doesn’t. When someone smokes, it increases the formation of clots, thickens the blood, and increases the amount of plaque build-up within arteries. This combined with unavoidable factors such as age can greatly increase the chance of the individual from suffering a stroke.
- Alcohol Use: While normally fine in moderation, excessive drinking increases blood pressure and can increase the risk of a stroke. If you decide to drink, make sure it is in moderation.
Knowing the signs and what to do can be a life-saver. While strokes are often preventable, it is important to know the signs to look for and what to do if they are suffering a stroke. An easy way to remember the signs is the acronym “FAST”:
- Face: Ask them to smile. If one side of the face droops, this could be a symptom.
- Arms: Ask the person to lift both arms in the air – does one drift downward? If yes, then this could also be a symptom.
- Speech: If their voice is slurred or different from their normal voice in a substantial way, act immediately.
- Time: Time is essential when someone is suffering from a stroke. If you notice any of these signs, immediately call 911.
Keep in mind that these are not the only signs that a stroke may be occurring. Other signs include the sudden onsets of the following:
- Numbness or weakness of the face, leg, or arm on one side of the body only
- Confusion, having trouble speaking, understanding, or comprehension
- Vision trouble in one or both eyes
- Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache with no known cause or source
By knowing the signs, symptoms and how to prevent them, you could save your loved one’s life, as well as others.