Are You at Risk for Stroke?

by North Memorial

Emergency Room Doors

With May heralding the arrival of National Stroke Awareness Month, it’s a good time to asses your risk for a stroke. The National Stroke Association reports that up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable.

Although stroke can happen to anyone, certain risk factors can increase chances of a stroke. However, a large percentage of strokes can be prevented by working with a healthcare professional to reduce personal risk. It is important to manage personal risk and know how to recognize and respond to stroke signs and symptoms.

Stroke symptoms include:

  • sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg  especially on one side of the body
  • sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • sudden severe headache with no known cause

Stroke prevention guidelines form the National Stroke Association will help you learn how you may be able to lower your risk for a first stroke. These guidelines should be discussed with a health care professional.

Know blood pressure (hypertension)
High blood pressure is a major stroke risk factor if left untreated. Have blood pressure checked yearly by a doctor or at health fairs, a local pharmacy or supermarket or with an automatic blood pressure machine.

Identify atrial fibrillation (Afib)
Afib is an abnormal heartbeat that can increase stroke risk by 500%. Afib can cause blood to pool in the heart and may form a clot and cause a stroke. A doctor must diagnose and treat Afib.

Stop smoking
Smoking doubles the risk of stroke. It damages blood vessel walls, speeds up artery clogging, raises blood pressure and makes the heart work harder.

Control alcohol use
Alcohol use has been linked to stroke in many studies. Most doctors recommend not drinking or drinking only in moderation  no more than two drinks each day.

Know cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a fatty substance in blood that is made by the body. It also comes in food. High cholesterol levels can clog arteries and cause a stroke. See a doctor if your total cholesterol level is more than 200.

Control diabetes
Many people with diabetes have health problems that are also stroke risk factors. A doctor and dietician can help manage diabetes.

Manage exercise/diet
Excess weight strains the circulatory system. Exercise five times a week. Maintain a diet low in calories, salt, saturated and trans fats and cholesterol. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Treat circulation problems
Fatty deposits can block arteries carrying blood to the brain and lead to a stroke. Other problems such as sickle cell disease or severe anemia should be treated.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
A TIA is a temporary episode of stroke-like symptoms that can last a few minutes to 24 hours but usually causes no permanent damage or disability. TIA and stroke symptoms are the same. Recognizing and treating a TIA can reduce stroke risk. Up to 40 percent of people who experience a TIA may have a stroke.

The National Stroke Association has also developed a stroke risk scorecard that you can discuss with a healthcare professional. For more information visit the Stroke Center at North Memorial.

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