Stroke Awareness Month

May is National Stroke Awareness month.  Stroke is a medical condition when the blood flow in your brain is stopped for some reason.  The most common type of stroke is when the blood vessels are clogged or narrowed to the point where blood can no longer get through.  The other reason for stroke is when a vessel breaks and causes blood to flow out into the brain.

According to the American Heart Association, there are many risk factors that can lead to a greater chance for either type of stroke.  Some of these risk factors we cannot control, such as age, family history, race, or gender.  If we have had a stroke before, we are at a greater risk of it happening again.  Some studies are showing that a higher chance of stroke may be linked to lower income levels, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and even sleep habits.

Let’s look at ways we can lessen our chance of a stroke, many of which we can control.

PREVENT OR CONTROL HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for stroke. Know what your blood pressure numbers are and take steps to control your blood pressure for a healthy brain.

EAT HEALTHY
Good news is that the same diet for a healthy heart, applies to a healthy brain! Foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains can lower your risk for stroke and heart disease. Give your brain the nutrients to stay healthy. Check out some healthy recipes on our website: www.fourcorners.ne.gov

STOP SMOKING
Smoking is a leading risk factor for stroke and slow brain function!  The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke can damage your cardiovascular system.  This makes it more likely that a stroke can occur.  Also, the use of birth control pills combined with cigarette smoking can greatly increase the risk of stroke.

BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Exercise helps to supply oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Walk, run, dance, or maybe even rake leaves. Activity throughout the day can make a big difference.  Physical activity helps reduce the chance of developing heart disease, becoming overweight, high blood pressure, and stroke.  The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of activity on all or most days of the week.

LOSE WEIGHT
A healthy weight can lead to health benefits like a good blood pressure.  If you are obese or overweight, take steps to get to a healthier weight.  Excess body weight is linked with an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.  Losing as little as 5 to 10 pounds can make a big difference in your risks.  Even if weight control has been a lifelong challenge, start by taking small steps today to manage your weight and lower risks of health concerns.

CONTROL BLOOD SUGAR
Left untreated, diabetes can cause several health concerns. It’s important to get your blood sugar tested and under control.  Many people with diabetes also have other health concerns like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and are overweight.  All these factors can make your risk for stroke even higher.

MANAGE CHOLESTEROL
A healthy brain requires normal blood flow and oxygen, which may be impacted by high cholesterol. By following a low-fat diet and eating more vegetables, your cholesterol will likely be reduced.  This helps the walls of our arteries stay healthy and able to get blood to our important organs, like our brain!

By understanding the risk factors for stroke, we can greatly reduce the chance of it happening to us or our loved ones. For more on this topic, please see www.strokeassociation.org.

To learn more about stroke prevention or another topic, you can call Four Corners Health Department at (402) 362-2621 or toll free 877-337-3573. You can also email info@fourcorners.ne.gov.