Stroke is a serious medical condition that may cause permanent damage to those affected. There are ways you can minimize your chances of having a stroke, reduce its impact, and prevent having recurrent strokes.
Know Your Personal Risk
There are many risk factors that may increase your lifetime risk of stroke. Some of the most common risk factors are poor lifestyle choices and chronic diseases. Risk factors include making poor dietary choices, lack of exercise, being overweight, and smoking. In general, you should make strides to develop a healthier diet with less processed foods, salt, sugar, and bad fats. Regular exercises can reduce your risk of stroke and vascular disease in general. Changes to your diet and regular exercise can make it easier to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. If you smoke, it is important to speak with your doctor to find resources for quitting. There are numerous options available, such as medications and nicotine replacement products, giving smokers more opportunities to quit for good.
Take Warning Signs Seriously
Some of the most common warning signs of stroke include numbness and/or paralysis that typically affects one side of the body. Other symptoms that may occur can include problems speaking or understanding speech, sudden loss of vision, or a severe headache. Since there are two types of stroke, hemorrhagic and ischemic, their symptoms may differ slightly. Knowing the warning signs increases the likelihood of seeking emergency care promptly, which can improve stroke outcomes.
An increasing number of emergency rooms have the capacity to handle strokes with minimally-invasive techniques or clot-dissolving medications. If intervention occurs within a few hours, it may be possible to reduce or reverse the effects of a stroke and prevent permanent damage. Other neurological conditions can mimic a stroke and should not be ignored. Transient ischemic attacks (TIA) are considered a less severe form of stroke and may be a warning that you are at risk for a future stroke. Some people also experience migraines with symptoms similar to a stroke. If you have any symptoms similar to a stroke, it is never safe to assume it is something less severe.
If you had a stroke, your odds of having future strokes dramatically increases, with subsequent strokes likely doing more permanent damage. It is important to make lifestyle modifications to reduce the likelihood of recurrence and speak with a specialist about other treatment options. In some cases, a specialist may recommend certain medications to reduce your cholesterol levels and/or minimize your risk of developing blood clots. Depending on the exact cause of a previous stroke, a specialist may recommend a procedure to open major blood vessels leading to the brain. This procedure is often performed by an intervention radiologist and requires only simple incisions and placement of a stent.
The risks associated with strokes cannot be underestimated. Paying attention to your risk factors and knowing the warning signs will give you the best possible chance of avoiding permanent damage.