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May is National Stroke Month: Knowing And Reducing Your Risks

It’s important to know the risk factors of having a stroke, some of which can be preventable and controllable, and to recognize the symptoms, so that many of the serious side effects of stroke can be avoided.

Blood Pressure: According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is the number one controllable risk factor for stroke. Family history and obesity factor in developing high blood pressure, and women who take birth control pills or have reached menopause are at higher risk. A healthy lifestyle helps, but for many, medications may be required.

Cholesterol: High levels of “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol raise the risk of heart disease and stroke; high levels of “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol can lower it.

Diabetes: Diabetes is associated with high blood pressure and interferes with the ability to break down clots, increasing the risk of ischemic stroke.

Diet and Exercise: Thirty minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can help prevent heart and blood vessel disease and control blood cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, as well as lower blood pressure. People with excess body fat—especially around the waist—are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke. Eat healthy foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

Smoking and Drinking: Smokers and those exposed to smoke daily are at a greater risk for stroke. Excessive alcohol intake can contribute to high blood pressure.

Stroke Symptoms: Time is of the essence when it comes to preventing debilitating and long-lasting effects of stroke. Symptoms include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or a sudden, severe headache with no known cause.