May was National Stroke Awareness Month

By Benjamin Head, MD
For The Cordova Times

May is National Stroke Awareness month. According to the CDC a stroke occurs in the United States every 40 seconds. That’s about 790,000 strokes every year. Nearly everyone in the U.S.  has been affected by or is close to someone who has had a stroke. Advancing age and a family history of someone who has had a stroke are two risk factors out of our control.

Below, are five things we can start doing today to help prevent a stroke:

  1. Lower Blood Pressure: Having high blood pressure can double or even quadruple your stroke risk if it’s not controlled. It is the number one contributor to the risk of stroke in both women and men.  Lowering your blood pressure can be done in many different ways.  Reducing  your salt intake, getting more exercise, quitting smoking or medication are just a few of them. If you have any concerns about high blood pressure, come in to discuss this with your physician today. Here at the Ilanka Clinic we even have a dedicated hypertension program where qualified individuals can obtain a free digital blood pressure monitoring cuff that communicates directly with your phone and with us to help you take control of your blood pressure.  
  2. Lose Weight: There is no one size or shape that fits all, but many of us would benefit from even just a little bit of weight loss. Sometimes just 5-10 pounds is enough to make a significant improvement in blood pressure. Once again, if this is something you’ve been thinking about but just aren’t sure how to do it or where to find the motivation, come in to discuss it. We can help!
  3. Exercise More: Exercise can contribute to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but not always. However, studies have shown that even if you don’t lose weight or lower your blood pressure, just the physical exercise reduces your stroke risk. Any amount of exercise is better than nothing. A good goal is to exercise for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity at least 5 days a week. Be sure to consult your physician before starting any new exercise routines. 
  4. Treat Diabetes: If you have diabetes, the elevated sugar concentration can damage your blood vessels which increases your risk of blood clots that can cause strokes. If you have diabetes make sure you work closely with your doctor to keep it well-controlled. If you worry about developing diabetes, come in to discuss this with your healthcare provider.  Most adults should be screened for diabetes every 1-3 years. Catching it early and then managing it closely prevents strokes. 
  5. Quit Smoking: Smoking thickens your blood and increases plaque buildup in your arteries.  Vaping does the same. If you smoke or vape, you’re probably tired of being told you need to quit. It’s so much easier said than done but come in to talk about it today. We can share some tips and tricks that may help you on your journey. 

Recognizing the signs of a stroke and getting someone prompt medical care can be the difference between life and death or long-term impairment. Using the F.A.S.T. acronym is an easy way to spot these signs. “F” stands for facial drooping. “A” is for arm weakness. “S” stands for speech difficulties.  If you spot any of these signs then it is “T,” time to call the ambulance. In strokes, time is brain cells. The sooner your loved one receives treatment the greater the chance for complete or near-complete recovery. You may make that difference for them if you familiarize yourself with F.A.S.T. Happy Stroke Awareness Month and have a wonderful summer!

Dr Head is co-medical director and a primary care physician at Ilanka Community Health Center.