Do You Know the Signs of a Stroke and How to Prevent It?
February is American Heart Month
In the next 40 seconds, someone in the United States will have a stroke. Are you among those at highest risk?
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or is blocked by a clot. A stroke caused by a blockage is called an ischemic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke is the result of a ruptured vessel that bleeds into or around the brain. The blockage or bleeding deprives brain cells of adequate oxygen-carrying blood and the cells start to die, which can lead to ongoing mental and physical impairment (difficulty thinking, speaking and moving) or even death.
Strokes are the fourth-ranked cause of death in the United States and a primary reason for long-term disability among adults. Each year, about 795,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke, and about 60 percent of strokes occur in women and 40 percent in men. Fortunately, 80 percent of all strokes are preventable.
If a person shows signs of a stroke, it is crucial to seek medical help immediately. Never wait to see if symptoms lessen. For optimum evaluation and treatment, a suspect stroke patient needs to be treated at a hospital within three hours of initial symptoms and often with a special medication that dissolves blood clots. One of the essentials of a quick diagnosis and survival from a stroke is for loved ones to know the symptoms of the life-threatening condition. Signs of a stroke include:
· Sudden weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, often on one side of the body.
· Sudden trouble speaking or understanding; confusion.
· Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes.
· Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of balance.
· Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
The acrostic F.A.S.T. is a simple way to remember how to check for stroke symptoms.
· Face. Does one side of the face droop? Ask for a smile.
· Arms. Ask the person to raise his or her arms. Does one side drift down?
· Speech. Is the person slurring words? Is he or she able to repeat a short sentence?
· Time. Call 911 immediately if any of the symptoms are present.
“Adults, teens and even children can learn the basic symptoms of a stroke and help save the life of their loved ones,” explained Marilyn Staff RN, Director of Home Care at Right at Home North of Boston, “Many of our clients are seniors who are at an increased risk for stroke, so it is rewarding to help them make gradual changes in diet and exercise to lose weight and lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and ultimately, to decrease the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.”
Older adults do experience more strokes, often because they face more cardiovascular disease and are more sedentary. But strokes in young, apparently healthy individuals do occur, more commonly in those with undetected irregular heart rhythms or women who are pregnant or who take birth control pills.
Certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of a stroke, particularly in aging loved ones. Recommendations include the following:
· Eat a healthier diet. Eating fewer saturated and trans fats and less sodium can improve heart health and prevent blood clots. Reports also show that a daily diet of five or more fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of a stroke.
· Manage blood pressure. Lowering one’s blood pressure can cut the risk for a stroke in half. Reducing the systolic blood pressure (top number) by 20 mmHG and the diastolic (bottom number) by 10 mmHG may decrease by 50 percent the risk of a stroke and ischemic heart disease.
· Maintain physical activity. Regular aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure and improves the condition of blood vessels and the heart. Exercise also reduces stress, helps with maintaining a healthy body weight and controls diabetes – all factors in preventing strokes.
· Lose extra weight. Being overweight affects blood pressure, blood sugar and heart health. Dropping as little as 10 pounds can boost the body’s ability to avert a stroke.
· Lower cholesterol levels. Dietary changes to limit fats and lower cholesterol can reduce plaque in arteries, a cause of blood clots. Cholesterol-lowering medications also can help.
· Reduce blood sugar. Diabetics are two to four times more likely to have a stroke. Maintaining target levels for glucose is key in reducing stroke risk.
· Avoid smoking. Tobacco use raises the potential for a stroke for both the smoker and those exposed to the secondhand smoke.
To learn more about stroke prevention and resources to help a stroke survivor, visit www.StrokeAssociation.org or call 1-888-4-STROKE (787653). The American Heart Association invites nationwide participation in February’s American Heart Month and the 10th anniversary of National Wear Red Day (Feb. 7). Right at Home North of Boston will be participating this year. For more information about American Heart Month, contact www.Heart.org or the American Heart Association in Waltham at (781) 373-4500 or Rosaleen Doherty at Right at Home at 877-500-CARE (2273).
About Right at Home North of Boston
The award winning North of Boston office of Right at Home is family-owned and operated by Jay Kenney and Rosaleen Doherty, CSA of Marblehead. They have served thousands of local families and seniors since their inception in 2002. Home care services are brought to seniors in all towns and cities North of Boston including the North Shore, Merrimack Valley and the Wakefield/Melrose area. For more information, contact Right at Home North of Boston at www.rightathomemass.net or call at 877-500-CARE (2273) or by email at email@example.com.
About Right at Home’s National Organization
Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care and assistance to seniors and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. Local Right at Home offices are independently owned and operated and directly employ and supervise all caregiving staff, each of whom is thoroughly screened, trained and bonded/insured prior to entering a client’s home. Right at Home’s global office is based in Omaha, Nebraska, with offices located in 44 states nationwide and throughout the world. For more information on Right at Home, visit About Right at Home at http://www.rightathome.net/about-us or read the Right at Home caregiving blog at http://www.rightathome.net/blog. To sign up for Right at Home’s free adult caregiving e-newsletter, Caring Right at Home, visit http://caringnews.com.