Stroke prevention

Bob Hatcher

August 19, 2011

          Two weeks ago this column outlined the most important early signs and symptoms of strokes. These are very important because there are remarkable agents that can be used to treat strokes that must be given within hours of the onset of a stroke. To review, the early symptoms of a stroke are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of 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
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Double vision, drowsiness, nausea or vomiting.
  • Sometimes the warning signs may last only a few moments and then disappear. These brief episodes, known as transient ischemic attacks or TIAs, are sometimes called “mini-strokes.”

Perhaps even more important than the early signs of a stroke are the many things a person may do over the course of a lifetime to decrease his or her risk of ever having a stroke. Here are some:

Do not smoke. There is simply no safe number of cigarettes. If you do not smoke, never start. If you do smoke, stop smoking as soon as possible. If you have tried to stop smoking and it didn’t work, try again. Smoking does at least 5 things to increase a person’s risk for a stroke. No single habit is more dangerous to a person’s health than smoking except, perhaps, text messaging while driving.

Get regular physical exercise. Exercise more!

Avoid long periods of complete inactivity.

Maintain you proper weight.

Eat right: cut down on salt; eat lots of fruits and veggies; and avoid excessive calories.

Do the things that will help you avoid hypertension and if you ever develop high blood pressure, work with your doctor or nurse practitioner to bring your blood pressure into the normal range.

Atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeats, causes one out of four strokes in people after age 80. You and your physician can consider the use of blood thinning agents if you have atrial fibrillation.

After the age of 50 it is recommended that people consider with their physician the wisdom of taking aspirin on a daily basis to prevent blood clots that can cause a stroke or heart attack.

Avoid diabetes and if you have diabetes work compulsively to control your diabetes as it raises a person’s risk for having a stroke in a number of ways.

Of the 138 articles I have now written for the Clayton Tribune, this is the one I encourage you to cut out and post on your refrigerator or onto a bulletin board you look at every day.  It could save your life!