By CHERYL FARLEY
RN, BSN, cardiac and pulmonary rehab manager at UHC
1) People often think that you cannot prevent a stroke?
Answer: Fortunately you can prevent a stroke. Actually up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Strokes can happen to anyone—at any time and any age. Arming yourself with information about stroke prevention is the first step in saving your life and the life of your loved ones. You want to first understand the different risk factors involved.
2) So is it true that a stroke only affects the elderly and that it happens in the heart?
Answer: It’s a myth that only older adults have strokes. In fact, stroke risk for women is higher than men. A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. A stroke happens when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. Think of it as a “brain attack”. Brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. A stroke can cause you to permanently lose speech, movement, and memory.
3) Are strokes a rarity and does heredity play a factor?
Answer: Minorities in the U.S. have higher stroke risks, stroke occurrence at an earlier age, and for some more severe strokes. Many young stroke survivors are between the ages of 18-65 years old. The financial burden and family obligations after a stroke in young adults can be significantly more than for older stroke survivors. Younger adults often ignore stroke symptoms that could save their lives and frequently have to live longer with the physical effects of a stroke and experience a greater loss in salary earnings.
There are nearly seven million stroke survivors in the U.S. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death nationally.
4) What are some of the risk factors involved with a stroke?
Answer: You want to first understand the different risk factors involved.
- AFIB-STROKE CONNECTION
AFib is a type of irregular heartbeat, often caused when the two upper chambers of the heart beat unpredictably and sometimes rapidly.
- LIFESTYLE RISK FACTORS
Lifestyle risk factors such as diet and exercise are part of controllable risk factors. Lifestyle risk factors are habits or behaviors people choose to engage in. If changed, they can directly affect some medical risk factors by improving them.
- MEDICAL RISK FACTORS
High blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (AFib), high cholesterol, diabetes and circulation problems are all medical risk factors, which are controllable, for stroke. Medical risk factors are often caused by a combination of things including family history. Medical risk factors are treatable by medications and special diets.
- UNCONTROLLABLE RISK FACTORS
Some risk factors for stroke are simply not controllable. But knowing what they are is still important in determining your overall risk for stroke.
People who have certain risk factors for vascular disease are encouraged to have a Dare to C.A.R.E. screening, which takes about 15 minutes. Dare to CARE is a free vascular screening program, being offered by United Hospital Center in partnership with the Heart Health Foundation. Participants are screened for:
– Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
– Carotid Artery Stenosis (CAS)
– Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)
The risk factors include:
– Age 60+
– Age 50+ with one or more of the following risk factors
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Diabetes (greater than 40 years old with diabetes)
- A family history of vascular disease – stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, kidney failure, sudden cardiac death, abdominal aortic aneurysm