Showing posts with label stroke risk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stroke risk. Show all posts

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Do You Know Your Risk for Stroke?

Stroke is a leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in adults in the United States. According to experts, the risk factors for a stroke fall into three categories:

  1. Risks that can’t be changed. These are typically hereditary factors - things you were born with.
  2. Risks that can be changed, treated or managed. These tend to be lifestyle choices, such as your diet and exercise habits.
  3. Other, miscellaneous factors. These are things that you have some, but not complete control of.

Stroke risk factors that you can’t change:

  • Age: After 55, your chances of stroke doubles each decade. However, stroke does affect younger individuals too.
  • Family history: Has a relative – parent, grandparent, sister or brother – had a stroke? This might increase your risk as well.
  • Race: African-Americans have a much greater risk of stroke than Caucasians do, in part, to a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.
  • Gender: Women have a greater risk of stroke than men. Stroke causes death in more women than men. Experts attribute this higher incident in women to the use of birth control pills; pregnancy; diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes); pre-eclampsia/eclampsia (a dangerous medical condition during pregnancy that causes high blood pressure); smoking; and hormone replacement therapy to manage menopausal symptoms.
  • Prior history: There is a much greater risk of stroke for someone who already suffered one. There is also great risk of stroke for an individual who has experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a heart attack.

Factors that can be changed, treated or managed:

  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes.
  • Smoking: Nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is a treatable disease. However, many people with diabetes are also overweight and have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, conditions that put them at greater risk for stroke.
  • Carotid, peripheral or other artery diseases: These conditions cause your arteries to become narrow or blocked due to fatty deposits, which increases your stroke risk.
  • Atrial fibrillation or other heart disease: Any type of heart disease puts you at greater risk for stroke.
  • Sickle cell disease/anemia: This genetic disorder typically affects African-American and Hispanic children. With this disease, your cells have difficulty carrying oxygen to your tissues and organs.  Cells also stick to and block your artery walls. This increases your chance of stroke.
  • High cholesterol: Having high “bad” cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke. In addition, too low levels of “good” cholesterol may be dangerous, too.
  • Poor diet: Having a high intake of fats, cholesterol, salt and calories is dangerous.
  • Obesity or physical inactivity: Being inactive, overweight or obese are all unhealthy and increase your risk of stroke. Find ways to incorporate activity into your daily life.

Other factors:

  • Where you live: Strokes are more common in the Southeastern United States.
  • Your income: Stroke risk is more common in individuals with lower incomes.
  • Alcohol abuse: Medical professionals advise no more than two drinks per day for men; no more than one drink daily for women. Pregnant women should never consume alcohol.
  • Drug abuse: Heavy use of drugs and drug addiction is associated with stroke and other health problems, especially in younger people.

Where can you learn more?

Check out sites such as,, or for more information regarding strokes as well as ways to reduce your risk factors.

The best way to reduce your risk is to immediately start managing any stroke risk factors you may have. Keep in mind that while there are some things you can't change, you still have control, and a balanced diet, exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle are always beneficial.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Brain Attack! -- Surviving a Stroke

Did you know that stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States?  It kills nearly 130,000 Americans yearly—one out of every 18 deaths!  That’s why there’s no better time than now, during Brain Awareness Week, to invest three minutes of your day reading an article that can save the life of a friend or family member from the deadly threat of a stroke, the brain’s equivalent of a heart attack. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s not likely to happen to someone you know, and right before your eyes. Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds in the United States, and someone dies of stroke every four minutes, according to the CDC.  Even when a stroke doesn't kill its victim, it is a significant source of disability in the U.S.  Strokes are responsible for causing reduced mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.

Emergency Room SignThe good news is that there are simple, easy-to-remember steps you can take to quickly identify when someone is having a stroke.  And “quickly” is the key to survival and improving the victim’s odds of a better outcome: when treatment can be administered within three hours of the brain attack event (the onset of stroke symptoms), the chances of survival and recovery is significantly greater, thanks to a drug known as a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) given intravenously to those diagnosed with ischemic stroke.  But the American Stroke Association (ASA) tells us that, unfortunately, only one in fifty stroke patients can be helped with tPA, simply because less than three percent of these ischemic stroke victims reach an emergency room in time.

What causes a stroke?

A brain attack, or stroke, is the result of either:
  • a blood clot suddenly blocking the blood supply to the brain (ischemic stroke); or
  • a blood vessel inside the brain bursting (hemorrhagic stroke). 
Ischemic strokes are more common – 80 percent of all brain strokes.  The lodged blood clot kills the part of the brain it blocks in ischemic strokes.  Hemorrhagic strokes result in bleeding inside the brain, which causes swelling, bruising, and, ultimately, brain malfunction.

Primary symptoms of brain stroke – Remember “sudden”

A stroke is usually a surprise - according to the ASA, of the nearly 800,000 annual stroke victims in the United States, about 600,000 are first time or new strokes. A stroke is also a surprise because symptoms often happen suddenly:
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the 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.
If you see any one of these symptoms, ASA advises that you immediately contact 911. 

Stroke symptom cheat sheet – think F.A.S.T

Let’s face it – most of us have trouble remembering a list of things when it’s more than three or four items.  To make things simple, the ASA has created the acronym F.A.S.T. to focus on the three most significant symptoms, plus the one thing to do when you see them.  F.A.S.T. stands for:
  • Face Drooping – one side of the face droops or is numb.  To check: ask the person to smile.
  • Arm Weakness – one arm is weak or numb.  To check: ask the person to raise both arms and note if one arm drifts downward.
  • Speech Difficulty – speech is slurred, garbled, or the victim is unable to speak, or is hard to understand.  Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue."  Can they repeat it correctly?
  • Time to call 911 – Do not wait to see if the person shows all of these symptoms.  If they show just one symptom, even if the symptom goes away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.
F.A.S.T. is the easiest way to remember the sudden signs and symptoms of a stroke.  To remember the acronym, study the image below to help you remember:  Face, Arm, Speech, Time to call.

Remember: this is a pass/fail test – any one of the symptoms means it’s time to get medical attention, FAST.  This is important because fast treatment often makes a remarkable difference in recovery.

Is stroke prevention possible?

While you cannot control some stroke risk factors (heredity, age, gender, and ethnicity can all influence likelihood of having a stroke), there are certain medical conditions can raise your stroke risk, most of which you have some measure of control over:
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • A previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)
To reduce your stroke risk, the ASA recommends that you avoid smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol, and that you eat a balanced diet and get exercise.

Stroke Facts

To learn more, see the CDC Stroke Fact Sheet, the CDC Stroke statistics from National Center for Health Statistics, and review the American Stroke Association’s site.  On the ASA site, you’ll find valuable stroke statistics and stroke information, including more on warning signs, more about stroke in general, and guidance on life after a stroke

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer