A quick reaction can mean the difference between life and death to someone suffering from a stroke. Are you confident that you would recognise the signs? Just as importantly, do you know how to reduce the risk of one occurring? If a person shows signs of a stroke, it is crucial to seek medical help immediately. Never wait to see if symptoms lessen. Signs of a stroke include the following:
- Sudden weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, often on one side of the body.
- Sudden trouble speaking or understanding; confusion.
- Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes.
- Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of balance.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
The acrostic F.A.S.T. is a simple way to remember how to check for stroke symptoms.
- Face. Does one side of the face droop? Ask for a smile.
- Arms. Ask the person to raise his or her arms. Does one side drift down?
- Speech. Is the person slurring words? Is he or she able to repeat a short sentence?
- Time. Call 999 immediately if any of the symptoms are present.
Older adults experience more strokes, often because they face more cardiovascular disease and are more sedentary. To reduce the risk of a stroke, particularly in ageing loved ones, follow these recommendations:
- Eat a healthier diet.
- Manage blood pressure.
- Maintain physical activity.
- Lose extra weight.
- Lower cholesterol levels.
- Reduce blood sugar.
- Avoid smoking.
To learn more about stroke prevention and resources to help a stroke survivor, visit the Stroke Association website www.stroke.org.uk. Certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of a stroke, particularly in ageing loved ones. Recommendations include the following:
- Eat a healthier diet. Eating fewer saturated and trans fats and less sodium can improve heart health and prevent blood clots. Reports also show that a daily diet of five or more fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of a stroke.
- Manage blood pressure. Lowering one’s blood pressure can cut the risk for a stroke in half. Reducing the systolic blood pressure (top number) by 20 mmHG and the diastolic (bottom number) by 10 mmHG may decrease by 50 percent the risk of a stroke and ischemic heart disease.
- Maintain physical activity. Regular aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure and improves the condition of blood vessels and the heart. Exercise also reduces stress, helps with maintaining a healthy body weight and controls diabetes – all factors in preventing strokes.
- Lose extra weight. Being overweight affects blood pressure, blood sugar and heart health. Dropping as little as 10 pounds can boost the body’s ability to avert a stroke.
- Lower cholesterol levels. Dietary changes to limit fats and lower cholesterol can reduce plaque in arteries, a cause of blood clots. Cholesterol-lowering medications also can help.
- Reduce blood sugar. Diabetics are two to four times more likely to have a stroke. Maintaining target levels for glucose is key in reducing stroke risk.
- Avoid smoking. Tobacco use raises the potential for a stroke for both the smoker and those exposed to the second-hand smoke.