Love your heart, help your brain

“You don’t have to have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Dr. Martin Luther King

Let’s talk about stroke prevention. May is Stroke Awareness Month, and as a woman my risk for having a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is higher than a man due to several factors. According to the CDC’s website “The lifetime risk of stroke for women between the ages of 55 and 75 in the United States is 1 in 5. Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer does, making stroke the third leading cause of death for women.” African American women have the highest risk for mortality due to a stroke. Pretty shocking statistics.

Why are women more susceptible to strokes? We live longer than men, and stroke risk increases with age. Other factors that increase our risk are certain types of birth control, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, sickle cell anemia and obesity.

What is a stroke? A stroke is essentially the death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen that is caused by either a clot or a “brain bleed” which is also known as a hemorrhagic stroke. Because of the damage to the tissue it can cause abnormalities in muscle function, speech, swallowing and behavior, depending on which area of the brain is affected. The severity of a stroke is directly linked to the amount of time between the on-set of the stroke and professional medical evaluation, treatment and intervention.

Possible signs of stroke may include:

  • Numbness, tingling or weakness in one extremity or one side of the body
  • Sudden onset confusion, inability to speak or understand speech
  • Sudden, severe headache (with or without vomiting)
  • Abnormal or impaired vision in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty with swallowing or facial drooping
  • Impaired coordination, dizziness or loss of balance

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have had a stroke, call 911 immediately. Time is imperative to ensure proper treatment and to lessen any residual effects from the stroke. Remember to contact your primary care provider for advice on how to lessen your chances of having a stroke.

For additional resources or education please visit https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/

Finding Your Balance

Dear Stress, I think it’s time that we spend some time apart…

While doing research for this blog, I have learned that every month has some kind of national observance. Or multiple observances. And silly national days, such as National Rubber Eraser Day (April 15th) or National Lima Bean Respect Day (April 20th). April is also national Stress Awareness Month, and it focuses on the best ways to recognize burnout and how to best care for ourselves while taking care of each other.

As a nurse, I am accustomed to running on caffeine and stress. Not to mention, we are the absolute WORST at listening to our own advice. This month I decided that I would try some stress relief techniques that I’ve learned over the years, just to see if they any effect on my outlook. And you know what? I honestly think it did!

“Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.”

Lord Byron

Stress Management Techniques

  1. KNOW YOUR WORTH. Not everyone can do the job you do (this is especially true of healthcare). Be proud of yourself and what you bring to the table.
  2. LEARN TO SAY NO. Everyone wants to be an indispensable part of the team, but don’t let it affect your mental health. Recognize your boundaries, and realize when it is time to walk away.
  3. EXERCISE. Routine exercise can decrease stress hormone levels (that contribute to belly fat!) and increase endorphin levels, which improve your over-all mood.
  4. SPEND TIME WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS. No explanation necessary.
  5. RE-ASSESS YOUR TO-DO LIST. Sometimes it is easier to have a “Done” checklist than a “To-Do” checklist.
  6. TAKE A NAP. This is my personal favorite! I am continually amazed at how refreshed I feel after a nap, even if it’s just 20 minutes.
  7. DO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY. Learn a new hobby, snuggle your pets or hug a loved one.
  8. COUNSELLING. Sometimes we all need a little extra help or professional support in our daily lives. There is no shame in recognizing that you may need some additional resources to cope, especially with the strain that Covid-19 has placed on all of us.
  9. GUIDED IMAGERY AKA find your happy place.
  10. LAUGH.

Do not hesitate to reach out to your primary care provider for professional help or additional resources to cope with financial, mental or physical stressors that you may be experiencing. An added bonus of our campus is the availability of our chaplains to guide us through difficult times. There are many websites available that provide more education and resources regarding stress, anxiety and depression.