Strokes are instances where the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, causing brain damage and in some cases, death. They are also the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States because they can result in paralysis, vision problems, speech problems, memory loss and changes in behavior.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strokes are unfortunately common, striking 795,000 people every year in the United States
To protect yourself, it’s wise to become familiar with signs you’re at risk and do what you can to address the underlying issues they signify.
You have high blood pressure
According to the American Heart Association, most people who have a stroke have high blood pressure. This is because high blood pressure weakens blood vessels including those in the brain, which can cause them to narrow, rupture or leak more easily.
You can manage high blood pressure in ways that will also benefit your overall health. For example, eating a balanced and low-sodium diet, limiting alcohol intake, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight will help. You may benefit from medication as well, so talk to your doctor to learn more about your options.
If you’re diabetic, your body does not produce or use insulin the way it should so you end up with more glucose in your blood, waiting to be broken down.
“Over time, this glucose can lead to increased fatty deposits or clots on the insides of the blood vessel walls” according to the National Stroke Association. “These clots can narrow or block the blood vessels in the brain or neck, cutting off the blood supply, stopping oxygen from getting to the brain and causing a stroke.”
Luckily, you can mitigate risk by monitoring your blood sugar levels, not smoking and doing things that also help with high blood pressure like using medication, limiting alcohol, eating healthy, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.
Your age, sex, ethnicity or family history put you at risk
The risk of having a stroke increases with age and, once you hit 55, your risk doubles every 10 years according to the CDC. Even young people should take preventative steps, as 1 in 7 strokes occur in people under age 49, likely because of high rates of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
As for sex, women are more likely to have strokes than men and are also more likely to die from them, according to cdc.gov. This is partially because women live longer than men, so age becomes a factor. They also have an increased risk from certain birth control medications, high blood pressure during pregnancy and mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and higher reported stress levels than men.
When it comes to ethnicity, Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native people are more likely to have a stroke than non-Hispanic white or Asian people.
Additionally, no matter your ethnicity, genetic factors or a family history of strokes increases your risk. Genetic factors might be outside your control, but taking steps to manage the risk factors you can control will go a long way toward countering any genetic predispositions.
Get the best care
Working with your medical provider to establish a healthy lifestyle is an important part of lowering your stroke risk. If you or someone you’re with has a stroke, immediately call 911 and get medical attention as soon as possible.
Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston has experts in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, medical weight loss and integrative medicine to help patients living in the community receive the best care close to home. Their care and knowledge can help you design and maintain a healthy lifestyle that’s good for your body and your brain! Visit cmmc.org to learn more.