Reducing Your Risk of Stroke
A stroke is a “brain attack,” cutting off vital blood and oxygen to the brain cells that control everything we do – from speaking, to walking, to breathing. Every year, stroke strikes approximately 750,000 Americans, killing 160,000 and forever changing the lives of many who survive. The good news, however, is that many strokes can be prevented.
Everyone has some stroke risk. A few stroke risk factors are beyond your control, such as being over the age 55, being a male, being an African-American, having diabetes and/or having a family history of stroke. If you have one of these risk factors, it is even more important that you learn about the lifestyle and medical changes you can make to prevent a stroke. Here are a few important stroke-prevention guidelines from the National Stroke Association:
• Know your blood pressure. If it is elevated, work with your physician to help keep it under control.
• Find out if you have atrial fibrillation. If you have this, work with your physician to manage it.
• If you smoke, stop. Smoking doubles the risk for stroke.
• If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
• Know your cholesterol number. If it is high, work with your physician to control it.
• If you are diabetic, follow your physician’s recommendations carefully to control your diabetes.
• Include exercise in the activities you enjoy in your daily routine.
• Enjoy a lower-sodium (salt), lower-fat diet.
• Ask your physician if you have circulation problems. If so, work with your physician to control them.
For those who are at risk for a stroke due to blocked arteries in the neck (carotid arteries), a new innovative minimally invasive procedure now is available – carotid stenting. Carotid stenting involves inserting a stent, or small tube, into the patient’s carotid artery. Once in place the stent opens the artery, allowing the blood to pass through the artery more smoothly helping to minimize the risk of a stroke.
The procedure – performed under local anesthesia in the Cardic Cath Lab – takes only 15 to 20 minutes, and patients generally are able to return home the next day.
Stroke is an emergency! For every minute that brain cells are deprived of oxygen during stroke, the likelihood of brain damage increases. If you have any of the following stroke symptoms, call 911 and seek immediate medical attention. The most common stroke symptoms are:
• 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.
• Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Dr. Eric Cohen, interventional cardiologist, is the medical director of Peripheral Vascular Intervention at the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona. Dr. Cohen specializes in vascular care and the treatment of peripheral arterial disease and limb salvage.