May is Stroke Awareness Month. Did you know each year about as many Americans have a stroke as a heart attack? The good news is, that about 80 percent of strokes are preventable.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke happens when a clot or rupture interrupts blood flow to the brain. Without oxygen-rich blood, brain cells die. The brain is a very complex organ and controls body function. When a stroke occurs and blood flow is cutoff from a part of the brain that controls a particular body function, that part of the body won’t work as well.
Every stroke is unique, but they tend to affect people in common ways. Strokes can have physical effects such as paralysis, muscle tightness and stiffness and seizures. Communication challenges are also a common effect of strokes. A person’s ability to speak, read and write can be affected. Following a stroke a person may experience emotional and behavioral changes, too. Their mood and outlook may change or they may become forgetful, careless, irritable or confused.
What Can I Do to Prevent a Stroke?
Remember though, 80 percent of strokes are preventable. So what can you do now? Well, many of the same recommendations to keep your heart healthy and prevent other chronic diseases like diabetes may also reduce your risk for stroke. The number one risk factor you can get under control is high blood pressure. And don’t think high blood pressure is just an older adult concern. About one in four men and nearly one in five women ages 35 to 44 has high blood pressure. Get your blood pressure checked and keep it in check to reduce your risk of a stroke. Visit one of Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s free blood pressure clinics at several different locations throughout the county. Also, schedule an appointment with your doctor to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year.
There are several other steps you can take to reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease and other chronic diseases like diabetes.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains can lower your risk for stroke and heart disease. Need recipe ideas? Check out our blog.
- Be physically active. Go for a walk, dance, or any activity that gets your heart pumping and increases the supply of oxygen and blood flow to your brain. Aim for at least 30 minutes five days a week. Don’t have time for 30 consecutive minutes? Break it up into 10 minute chunks of time instead.
- Get quality sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is a one of the leading risk factors for stroke. If you need assistance to quit smoking, visit KSQuit.org or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).
80 percent of strokes are preventable. With the right steps, you can lower your risk of stroke. Also, when you take steps to lower your risk of stroke, you are also lowering your risk for heart disease and other chronic diseases like diabetes.