Tennova Healthcare–Lebanon has a checklist to assist people in managing health conditions and making better choices on controllable factors that increase stroke risks.
“Anyone can have a stroke,” said Dr. Hardie V. Sorrels III, a doctor of internal medicine with Tennova Healthcare–Lebanon. “While it’s true that certain risk factors like age and family history are beyond our control, there are many lifestyle choices we can make to vastly reduce the likelihood of a stroke.”
Even better, most of the lifestyle choices needed to reduce the risk of a stroke will also significantly lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, while enhancing a person’s overall health and quality of life. The medical center offered a priority checklist:
• Control blood pressure: High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke, and it is also the most controllable risk factor. If someone can’t manage healthy blood pressure through diet and exercise alone – and many people can’t – they should talk with tehir doctor about medicines that may help.
• Stop smoking: The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system and pave the way for a stroke to happen. The use of birth control pills, combined with cigarette smoking, can elevate the risk of stroke even further.
• Get fit: Both inactivity and excess body weight can increase the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. People are advised to go on a brisk walk, take the stairs and do everything they can to make their life more active. If their body mass index is more than 25, they should make losing weight a top priority.
• Use food as preventive medicine: Consider adopting a Mediterranean diet, which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Research indicates that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, fish and unrefined foods is linked to a lower risk of stroke and heart attack in people who have heart disease. Minimize saturated fat and trans fat intake; keep calories within a healthy range; and if they have high blood pressure, shake the salt habit. Avoid salting foods at the table, read labels at the store and eat fewer packaged and processed foods.
• Prevent or control diabetes: Diabetes, both type I and type II, is an independent risk factor for stroke. If a person is diabetic, they should have their A1C levels checked regularly, and follow their doctor’s guidance to keep their blood sugar in a healthy range.
• Manage cholesterol levels: Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream increases the risk of atherosclerotic plaque development or blockage in the arteries and the possibility of a stroke. To get their cholesterol numbers in a healthy range, people should talk with their doctor about cholesterol-lowering medications.
• Manage atrial fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation increases stroke risk significantly because it causes the heart's upper chambers to beat incorrectly. This can allow blood to pool and clot, and those clots can then travel to the brain and cause a stroke. If a person has Atrial fibrillation, they should confer with their doctor about treatment options.
• Address other medical conditions: If a person has sleep apnea, sickle cell disease, peripheral or carotid artery disease, or other diseases of the heart or blood vessels, they should ask their doctor about the impact of these conditions on their risk for a stroke, and how best to manage each.
A quick response is critical in the event of any suspected stroke. FAST is a simple way to remember the sudden signs of a stroke. The acronym encourages inspection of a person’s face, arms and speechfor any signs that are out of the ordinary, and it underscores that timeis of the essence in stroke diagnosis and treatment.
“Other stroke symptoms can include sudden and severe headache, confusion, numbness on one side of the body, and loss of vision,” Sorrels said. “Treatment must be administered promptly to avoid irreversible damage. So, if you suspect a stroke, call 911 immediately.”
Tennova Healthcare–Lebanon also offers inpatient rehabilitation services following a serious injury or illness, such as stroke, at Tennova Rehab Center at McFarland.
For more information or to find a doctor, call 1-855-TENNOVA or visit tennova.com.