Stroke Prevention

Did you know that June is Stroke Awareness Month?

What is a stroke?

The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada defines stroke as a sudden loss of brain function that is caused by the interruption of blood flow to the brain (ischemic stroke), or the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).  The interruption of this blood flow causes brain cells in the affected area to die.  The effects of a stroke will depend on where the brain was injured and how much damage is caused. A stroke can impact your ability to move, see, remember, speak, reason, read and write.

Stroke is a medical emergency.  Recognizing and responding immediately to the signs of stroke can significantly improve survival and recovery.

What are the five signs of stroke?

  1. Sudden weakness, loss of strength, numbness in the face, arm or leg
  2. Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding, sudden confusion
  3. Sudden trouble with your vision
  4. Sudden severe and unusual headache
  5. Sudden dizziness or loss of balance

If you experience any of these symptoms, even if they are temporary, you should call your local emergency number immediately.

If the stroke is caused by a blood clot, doctors can administer a clot-busting medication that is only available at the hospital.  It’s crucial that this medicine be given within a few hours within onset of your symptoms to be most effective and possibly prevent complications associated with stroke.

If the stroke is caused by a ruptured blood vessel, surgery may be needed to repair the broken blood vessel and remove blood that has pooled in the brain.

How do you prevent a stroke?

Even though you cannot change your genetics, family history, age, gender or ethnicity, you CAN do something about other factors that could increase your risk of having a stroke.

Risk factors that you can do something about include:

*High Blood Pressure – high blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke

*High Blood Cholesterol – there are 2 types of cholesterol – good and bad. Too much bad cholesterol can increase your chances of having a stroke

*Atrial Fibrillation – AF is an irregular heart rhythm.  One of the main complications of AF is stroke.  Individuals with AF have a stroke risk that is 3 to 5 times greater than those without AF.

*Diabetes – having poorly controlled blood sugar levels can increase your chances of stroke

*Being overweight – a healthy weight can significantly reduce your risk of stroke

*Excessive alcohol consumption – drinking too much of any type of alcohol can increase your blood pressure which puts you at risk of having a stroke

*Physical inactivity – being physically active helps you maintain a healthy weight, reduce high blood pressure, lower cholesterol and manage stress which ALL helps to reduce your risk of stroke

*Smoking – smoking contributes to the buildup of plaque in your arteries, increases the risk of blood clots, reduces oxygen in your blood, increases your blood pressure and makes your heart work harder.  All of these things can increase your risk for stroke.

*Stress – too much stress can harm your health and increase your risk for stroke

For more information about stroke , and to take your Heart & Stroke Risk Assessment Test, please visit:

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