Reduce your risk of a stroke

Sudden severe headache? Confused? A bit dizzy?

Symptoms that women tend to dismiss with a simple “I’m just tired” may be signs of a stroke and it’s time to call 911.

Strokes don’t just happen to old men. Young, female and in apparent good health? You, too, are at risk.

 

Consider:

  • One in every four stroke victims is younger than age 65.
  • Women are more likely than men to have a stroke.
  • Women are more likely than men to die of a stroke.
  • On average, someone in America dies of a stroke every four minutes.

A stroke, “sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts,” according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Immediate action is essential, said St. Elizabeth Healthcare Vascular Surgeon Dr. James Bardgett. Minutes matter in limiting damage and preventing death from a stroke.

St. Elizabeth is a primary stroke center. That means when a patient is brought to the emergency room they are very quickly triaged and evaluated by the stroke team, a team of doctors and specialists available 24 hours a day. “That’s the main thing to me. They have the ability to evaluate all these things that can cause strokes and then treat them,” the surgeon said.

 

Signs of a stroke are:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Confusion or trouble speaking.
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • Loss of balance, dizziness.
  • Severe headache with no known cause.

A healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent a stroke but it’s important to talk with your doctor about all risk factors including your family history. Family history leads the list of risk factors that cannot be controlled which also, according to the American Heart Association, includes:

  • Chances double for each decade of life after age 55.
  • African-Americans have a higher risk, which is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
  • The risk for women is higher and may be linked to the use of birth control pills, pregnancy, smoking or post-menopausal hormone therapy.

 

Risk factors that can be controlled include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Poor diet
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise

 

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