American Stroke Month being observed in May

Ross Davidson
Healthy Thoughts

Every 40 seconds, someone in our country has a stroke. When blood flow to the brain is blocked or a blood vessel breaks, this is what constitutes a stroke. Without proper blood flow, some of the brain cells are injured or die and this can cause long-term disability or death. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in our country, but outcomes are drastically improved when a stroke is recognized and treated as quickly as possible.
F.A.S.T. is the acronym that helps to recognize the common signs of a stroke and what to do.
F: Face drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Speech trouble
T: Time to call 911
Now that you know what F.A.S.T stands for, share it with someone and together we can help have better outcomes for strokes.
Other signs of stroke to watch for include trouble walking, dizziness or a loss of balance, confusion or difficulty understanding what people are saying, a sudden, severe headache without a known cause and one sided, sudden numbness of the leg, arm or face.
The “T” for time to call 911 really does make a difference in the outcome for someone having a stroke. If a stroke is treated within 90 minutes from the first symptoms these patients are three times more likely to have no lasting disability.
While it is important to know the signs of a stroke and what to do it is also important to recognize what can be done daily to help prevent strokes. Here are a few recommendations from the American Heart Association. Don’t smoke or vape and avoid secondhand smoke. Reduce stress, which in turn can help reduce the likelihood of overeating, lack of physical activity and smoking. Limiting alcohol consumption is another factor in reducing risk. Reducing the number of sugary drinks that are consumed is helpful in lowering stroke risk.
Eating healthy foods which are low in sodium, trans fat and saturated fat and getting enough sleep are beneficial in stroke reduction.
High blood pressure and diabetes are conditions that can increase stroke risk. Monitoring and controlling these with lifestyle changes and medications are important in reducing stroke risk. Uncontrolled diabetes damages arteries and high blood pressure damages blood vessels which is why it affects stroke risk. A “mini-stroke” or TIA (transient ischemic attack) can cause the same symptoms as a stroke, but the symptoms don’t last as long. If someone has had a TIA they are at higher risk of having a stroke.
May can be a great month to implement a heart healthy change in our lives. Now that the weather is warming up, it can be a great time to add some extra outdoor physical activity into our lives. Learn a new sport, find a new favorite path or hike, invite a friend to go with you and this can be a fun way to be healthier and prevent strokes. Increasing fruit and vegetables in our diet can be another heart healthy choice. Gardening/growing our own produce can be good for physical activity and our diets. Try a healthy recipe or meal and share it with a friend or neighbor. If you have questions, there are great resources at the American Stroke Association website and talk with your healthcare provider.
(Ross Davidson, RPh, is a Three Rivers Health pharmacist.)