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What are five tips for avoiding stroke?

Posted: 7:17 PM, Feb 22, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-23 01:17:45Z
Dr. Ziad Darkhabani is an interventional neurologist with Aurora BayCare. He joined us on “Wisconsin Tonight” to talk about strokes, and how to avoid the medical emergency. 
 
A stroke is a "brain attack." Much like a heart attack, stroke 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.
 
Occasionally people get strokes and heart attacks confused. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. Without oxygenated blood, the heart muscle begins to die. A stroke is a brain attack, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Stroke happens when a blood vessel feeding the brain gets clogged or bursts.
 
What are five tips for avoiding stroke?
 
* Lower blood pressure
-High blood pressure is the top risk factor in stroke prevention. If uncontrolled, it increases four-fold your risk of stroke.
 
* Lose weight
-Gaining even 22 pounds after the age of 18 is associated with increased risk of stroke. Shed some weight if your physician encourages you to.
 
* Quit smoking
-Smoking increases your risk of stroke. This is because it narrows your arteries and makes your blood more likely to clot. This risk is reduced as soon as you stop smoking. So quit, today.
 
* Increase your physical activity
-In a study of more than 47,000 men and women in Finland, physical activity was associated with decreased risk of stroke. Exercise helps reduce blood pressure by making the heart stronger. A stronger heart means less effort required to pump blood around the body - so the lower the blood pressure. For most people, at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week is recommended.
 
* Change your diet
-An unhealthy diet increases the risk of stroke, as well as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Excessive salt and alcohol consumption contributes to high blood pressure. A low-fat, high-fiber diet is usually recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day) and whole grains.
 
What are the warning signs of stroke vs. heart attack?
 
Stroke warning signs generally include:
 
* Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
* Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
* Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
* Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
* Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
 
Heart attack warning signs generally include:
 
* Chest discomfort
* Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
* Shortness of breath
* Other signs of discomfort - cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
 
What should we do if we suspect someone is having a stroke?
 
Act FAST: Use this acronym to quickly identify a person experiencing stroke
 
Face - Ask the person to smile. Check to see if their smile is uneven, droops or is numb.
 
Arms - Ask the person to raise both arms. Check if one arm is weak and drifts downward.
 
Speech - Ask the person to speak. Listen for slurring. Are they unable to speak?
 
Time - Call 911 at the first sign of stroke. Note the time the symptoms began.
 
For more information, call Aurora BayCare Medical Center-Interventional Neurology at (920) 288-8044.