5 Ways to Prevent Stroke
What is a Stroke?
A stroke, commonly referred to as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is a “brain attack”. It can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost.
There are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of having a stroke in your lifetime. The best way to avoid a stroke is by making healthy lifestyle choices and following these five guidelines to prevention.
- Don’t ignore mini-strokes. Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), sometimes called “mini strokes,” can cause temporary vision loss, slurred speech or weakness. Though they don’t typically cause permanent damage, they may signal a problem that can lead to a full-blown stroke. About 1 in 3 people who have a TIA go on to have a stroke, often within a year, so be sure to seek medical care if you’ve suffered from these temporary symptoms or believe you’ve had a TIA.
- Treat diabetes and atrial fibrillation. These conditions can cause blood clots to form if not properly managed. For people with diabetes, high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, increasing the likelihood that clots will form inside them. People with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to have a stroke. Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) can cause clots in the heart; about one in five people who suffer a stroke have A-fib. With both of these conditions, the clots can then travel to the brain, causing a stroke.
- Manage blood pressure and cholesterol. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can both cause plaque build-up in your arteries, leading to heart attack or stroke. In people having a stroke for the first time, three-quarters have high blood pressure. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to keep these conditions in check, your doctor may recommend medication to control them.
- Consider an aspirin a day. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor if taking aspirin or a blood thinner to prevent a stroke or heart attack is right for you. Aspirin acts as a blood thinner, preventing blood clots from forming in arteries partly blocked by cholesterol and plaque.
- Get screened for carotid artery disease. A clogged carotid artery in the neck caused by the build-up of plaque is estimated to cause one-third of strokes. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease or peripheral artery disease, you are at an increased risk for carotid artery disease, too. Other risk factors include being over age 65, smoking and a family history of stroke. Early diagnosis and treatment of a narrowed carotid artery can decrease stroke risk. Your doctor can listen to the arteries in your neck with a stethoscope or refer you for a carotid ultrasound.
What are the warning signs of a stroke?If you experience a TIA (transient ischemic attack), get help at once. If you’ve previously had a TIA or stroke, your risk of having a stroke is many times greater than someone who has never had one.
If you believe you or someone you know if having a stroke use the easy acronym F-A-S-T created by the National Stroke Association to identify the signs. The FAST test is an easy way for everyone to remember and recognize the signs of stroke. FAST stands for Face, Arms, Speech and Time to act:
- Face – Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
- Arms – Can they lift both arms?
- Speech – Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
- Time – Is critical. If you notice any of these warning signs, act FAST. Call your local emergency medical services or get to the nearest hospital immediately.
- Think FAST. Act Fast. Stroke is a medical emergency.
Warning signs are clues your body sends that your brain is not receiving enough oxygen. If you observe one or more of these signs of a stroke or “brain attack,” don’t wait, call a doctor or 911 right away!
Peripheral Vascular Associates is proud to serve the San Antonio community and surrounding areas in vascular disease education, prevention, and treatment for over 43 years. Our vascular physicians are experts in vascular stroke prevention in San Antonio. If you would like more information about stroke or carotid artery disease or individual vascular health assessments, please contact us or schedule an appointment at (210) 237-4444.