Health Canada has deemed the month of February “Heart Month”. It represents the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s key opportunity to alert millions of Canadians of the risks of heart disease and stroke.
Incredibly, 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke. These two conditions combined take one life every 7 minutes. The good news is, with a healthy lifestyle and regular preventative health care these problems can often be prevented!
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs as a result of stopped blood flow to an area in the brain. Blood flow is crucial to keep oxygen circulating throughout our body. If you do not get enough oxygen to an area of the brain, that area stops working properly; much like the stoppage of blood flow to an area of the heart (a heart attack) may cause it to stop working properly.
Depending on the area affected, signs of a stroke may vary. Some examples include:
- One-sided weakness/paralysis
- Trouble reading, talking, doing math, remembering, learning
- Changes in your vision
- Changes in your depth perception
- Problems understanding maps
- Problems making judgements
The most common type of stroke is an ischemic stroke, which occurs in about 80% of cases. This is a blockage of blood flow, often caused by narrowing of a blood vessel due to build-up of fatty materials, calcium, and scar tissue. The other type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke, where a vessel actually breaks and causes blood to spill out into other areas of the brain.
What are my Risk Factors?
The following are modifiable risk factors for stroke. That is, there are things that can be done to improve each of the following and reduce your risk of stroke:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Irregular rhythms in the heart
- Heart disease or a previous history of a heart attack
- Being overweight
- Excessive drinking
- Inactive lifestyle
- High stress level
Some of these factors may be difficult to identify yourself, so it is important that you see a healthcare provider regularly to ensure they are being checked for and addressed.
Other factors unfortunately are non-modifiable. That is, they are characteristics that are out of our hands. The following are the known non-modifiable risk factors for stroke:
- Family history
- Ethnic background
- Prior history of stroke or TIA
How Can I Prevent a Stroke?
As you can see above, there are more “modifiable” risk factors than “non-modifiable”. That means that you can do things to reduce your risk. The following are some suggestions, however, if you would like to review these ideas in further detail, please see your healthcare provider or call us at 519-250-6990 to book an appointment!
Ways to Lower Your Risk of Stroke
|Eat a healthy diet||Try various ways to manage stress|
|Be mindful of portion sizes||Limit your alcohol intake|
|Exercise||Live a smoke-free lifestyle|
|Commit to safe, healthy weight loss||Take your medications as prescribed|
|Avoid fad diets||Ensure your blood pressure and cholesterol is well-controlled|
|Drink lots of water||Supplements as needed/prescribed|
|See your healthcare provider regularly|
What are the Warning Signs of Stroke?
There are 5 warning signs that are important to recognize. IF any of the following occur, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Trouble speaking
- Vision problems
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. (2013). Feburary is Heart Month. Retrieved from: www.heartandstroke.ca
Hu F.B., Manson J.E., Stampfer M.J., Colditz G., Liu S., Solomon C.G., Willett W.C. Diet, lifestyle, and the risk of type II diabetes mellitus in women. New England Journal of Medicine, 2001, 345(11):790-797
C. Uphold, & M. Graham, Clinical guidelines in family practice, Fourth Edition. Florida: Barmarrae Books, Inc.