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/

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