The sad news of Senator Mark Kirk’s stroke at age 52 brings to light the reality that age does not play a factor when it comes to this affliction. Every year, stroke strikes approximately 795,000 Americans – killing 144,000 and forever changing the lives of many who survive. Everyone has some risk so it is important to learn the warning signs of a stroke as well as how to decrease the chances of it happening to you.
According to the National Stroke Association using the acronym FAST can help identify warning signs of a stroke.
FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Act FAST and CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY at any sign of a stroke.
Other stroke symptoms include:
- SUDDEN numbness or weakness of 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.
Are You At Risk?
Medical risk factors include: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, atrial fibrillation and carotid artery disease. Having an annual check-up and simple lifestyle changes can assist in decreasing your risk of having a stroke.
Lifestyle changes can reduce your risk
- Check your blood pressure. There are blood pressure machines at most pharmacies where you can check it for free. If it is elevated, contact your doctor immediately to start getting it under control. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke.
- Have your doctor check for atrial fibrillation (also called AF). Your doctor can detect AF by carefully checking your pulse.
- Stop smoking. Smoking doubles the risk for stroke.
- Only drink alcohol in moderation. Remember that alcohol is a drug – it can interact with other drugs you are taking, and alcohol is harmful if taken in large doses. If you don’t drink, don’t start.
- Healthy Eating. Lowering your sodium intake and the amount of fatty foods you eat can assists in lowing your blood pressure as well as your cholesterol.
- Exercise. Something as simple as a brisk walk, swim or other activity for as little as 30 minutes a day can improve your health and may reduce stroke risk.
80 percent of strokes can be avoided by annual check-ups and making simple lifestyle changes. Unfortunately for Senator Kirk he may have had warning signs he ignored prior to the stroke. Knowing the warning signs may have helped him to avoid this tragedy.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms please seek immediate medical attention. For more information on how to reduce your risks of stroke visit http://www.stroke.org