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Lowering your risk of stroke
May is Stroke Awareness Month – this annual observance offers the opportunity to shine light on a serious, yet preventable health concern – Stroke. A stoke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, which causes the brain cells to die. Even though about 80% of strokes are preventable, stroke is the 5th leading cause of death and leading cause of disability in the US.
It is a myth that stroke is an old person’s disease – a stroke can happen to anyone at any time. Risk factors that can increase the chances of stroke, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes, are occurring at younger ages. That's why it's important to recognize and lower your own risk of stroke by focusing on the factors you have control over.
Diet and exercise are key stroke risk factors that you can control. Your lifestyle can directly affect your chances of having a stroke. A healthy diet can help reduce your risk by improving your overall health and assisting in maintaining a healthy weight. Excess weight puts a strain on the circulatory system, and can make people more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes – all of which can increase your risk of stroke as well.
Diet isn’t the only part of your lifestyle that needs to be in good standing – your body does too! Recent studies have shown that people who exercise five or more times per week have a reduced stroke risk. Regular exercise will improve your overall health and fitness, and reduce your risk for chronic diseases.
If you are a tobacco user or smoker, you are doubling your risk of stroke when compared to a nonsmoker. Smoking increases clot formation, thickens blood, and increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. If you are a smoker, ask your doctor about resources for quitting. Along with tobacco, alcohol use has been connected to stroke. Drinking in excess can increase blood pressure – aim to drink in moderation.
If you have questions about what you can do to live healthier, speak with your primary care practitioner at your next appointment. They can offer you great tips and advice, and may refer you to other wellness services if they feel you could benefit. If you are in need of a healthcare practitioner or would like more information regarding CCP's wellness programs, please call our Concierge Care Coordinator at (518) 782-3800.
Stroke is more likely to affect those with high blood pressure – in fact, it is the number one cause of stroke. High blood pressure causes the heart to pump harder to move blood through the body. This can weaken the vessels and damage some of your major organs, like the brain. Those with high blood pressure have 1 ½ times the risk of having a stroke when compared to those who consistently have optimal blood pressure of 120/80. However, this can be managed through a healthy diet and physical activity.
Another risk factor is high cholesterol. This is because high cholesterol in the arteries can block normal flow to the brain, causing a stroke. Your risk for heart disease also increases with high cholesterol. It is recommended that total cholesterol levels should be under 200.
If you are concerned about your medical risks associated with stroke, we strongly encourage you to speak with your primary care practitioner. They can answer any questions you may have, as well as work with you to develop a plan to help you manage these factors. If you are in need of a primary practitioner, please call our Concierge Care Coordinator at (518) 782-3800.
Age – Stroke can happen to anyone, at any time, and any age. However, stroke risk does increase with age. After the age of 55, stroke risk doubles for every decade a person is alive.
Gender – Women suffer from more strokes each year than men, mainly because women live longer and strokes occur most often at older ages. Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer each year.
Race and Ethnicity – African Americans have twice the risk of stroke, in part because they are more susceptible to high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders also have higher risk of stroke than Caucasians.
Family History – Your risk of stroke increases if a family member (parent, grandparent, or sibling) has had a stroke or heart attack at an early age.
Remember, management is key to stroke prevention! If you would like more information about stroke and how you can manage your risk factors, please speak with your primary care practitioner. If you are in need of a practitioner or would like to learn about the wellness services at CCP, please call our Concierge Care Coordinator at (518) 782-3800.
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