According to stroke.org, less than 20% of hospitals in the United States are stroke certified. The National Stroke Association is an organization that works to assist stroke victims and their families and caregivers with educational programs on care and prevention and stroke awareness. But it seems to this writer that it would be best if we worked harder on prevention.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can be affected by a stroke, some habits and health issues may make some people more susceptible to stroke than others, but nearly 80% of strokes could be avoided by identifying risks and taking measures to control these behaviors and/or health conditions.
With the seriousness of the effects of a stroke, it seems one would want to control anything they are capable of controlling to prevent or lower their risk factors for a stroke. These are some of the behaviors and conditions that increase your risk of stroke.
- High blood pressure
- Atrial fibrillation
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High cholesterol
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise / physical inactivity
- TIA (transient ischemic attack)
- Birth control pills
- Family history: you can”t really control this but makes you more aware of the risks
- Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD)
- Gender: women are more likely to have a stroke
- Chronic inflammation diseases such as Lupus
- Low birth weight
- Migraine headaches
- Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
- Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy
- Previous stroke: persons that have had prior stokes are at higher risk
- Ethnicity: Hispanics and African Americans are at higher risk
- Sleep apnea
- Age: older persons are at higher risk
That’s a lot of risk increasing factors! Regular checkups with your family physician may catch any of these medical conditions, and then treating these conditions will help control the risk factors associated with them. But your doctor can’t make you exercise, or quit smoking, or not drink too much, or make you eat right. These factors are not health conditions, they are habits. Habits can only be controlled by YOU!
Controlling risk factors
It’s pretty simple, if you smoke, quit, if you drink too much, stop drinking too much, and if you have a poor diet and don’t exercise, then eat right and get off the couch. Research shows that one drink per day is beneficial yet two or more drinks per day will actually increase your risk factor of stroke, so if you drink more than two drinks per day, that”s too much.
It doesn’t take a lot of exercise to get healthy; you don’t have to run marathons or swim the English Channel or be a tri-athlete to be healthy. If you live in the suburbs a simple stroll around the block once a day can do wonders for you.
Riding a bicycle or swimming is also good, doing either of these for just 15-20 minutes per day will do wonders. The important thing is to get up and do something to get the circulation and respiration going. Start your children early to develop healthy habits.
Diet is also important in controlling these risk factors. Eating healthy with a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and controlling your cholesterol by reducing fried and fatty foods are excellent means of controlling these factors, but this is up to you as well. Health related conditions should be diagnosed and treated by your doctor.
By diagnosing and treating medical conditions, maintaining a proper diet and exercising, and stopping negative habits such as smoking and drinking excessively, you can control these risk factors and thus reduce your risk of stroke.