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Stroke and Stroke Prevention

A stroke is a cerebral emergency. Cerebral means brain, and emergency means sudden. Thus, a stroke is a sudden interruption of the blood flow through the arteries in the neck to the brain. This interruption can be caused by a blood clot, or a rupture in the wall of the artery. In many cases, deposits of cholesterol and other substances build up on the inner walls of the arteries causing them to narrow and inhibit the flow of blood. (This is called atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, and it is the main cause of strokes.) Without blood the brain does not get its life-sustaining oxygen; without oxygen, the brain suffocates and the surrounding cells killed or seriously damaged. If the affected cells are the ones that control your left arm, or your memory, then these functions become impaired. If too many of your brain cells die, so will you.

The Good News

Strokes does not 'just happen' to healthy arteries. They occur in arteries that have been damaged or strained over the years. This means that we have a choice! If we develop a healthy eating habit at an early age and be consistent, the probability of us becoming affected by many illnesses such as strokes, will be greatly diminished. If we pay attention to the early warning signs, and be proactive, we can prevent a stroke happening to us. If we are concerned about our health, and takes the steps necessary to avoid a stroke occurring, we will be successful.

Stroke Signs to Look For

If you at any time suddenly feel weak or numb in your face, arm, hand, or leg; lose your ability to speak clearly; your vision blurs and you feel dizzy and unsteady; then within minutes the sensations go away, you should see your physician. It is possible that you have experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA) commonly called a mini-stroke. This usually precede a major stroke which normally happens within a week. Severe headaches are a major symptom of an impending stroke. If your headache is brought on by exertion or is accompanied by dulled senses and a feeling of being sedated - however slight, you should see a doctor right away. Early treatment can avert a stroke.

Know Your Risk Factors

You are at greater risk for having a stroke if any of the following apply to you:

You are over 55

You have a history of strokes in your family

You have high blood pressure

You have a high cholesterol level

You suffer from heart disease

You smoke cigarettes

You drink alcohol excessively

You are overweight

You have diabetes

Also, if you are highly stressed on a regular basis, you may be more prone to having a stroke at an earlier age.

Things You Can Do To Prevent A Stroke

Stay active - avoid sitting for long hours. If you have to sit for long hours, be sure to get up at regular intervals and stretch and walk around.

Exercise regularly - you can choose to do aerobics or other weight lifting exercises. You may choose to go jogging, swimming, or mountain climbing. As long as you do them, and do them regularly, you will be in compliance with your physical activity requirements.

Eat healthy diets - by all means, avoid foods that are high in cholesterol. Eat lots of green, leafy vegetables, berries, whole grains, and lean meats. You may also add fish to your diet, as they are packed with the right kind of healthy fats - omega 3 fatty acids.

Maintain a healthy weight - do not allow your weight to fluctuate too much. Get to your desired weight and stay there. Eating healthy diets, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep, will help you to do just that.

Know your risk factors and keep them in check - if you have a family history of strokes for example, take extra precaution with the way you eat and live - in general. Also, develop a close relationship with your doctor; keep your schedule with him/her, and follow through with his/her orders.

Avoid cigarette smoke - if you smoke, quit smoking. Smokers are at higher risk for strokes, but so are non-smokers who are exposed to second hand smoking.

Avoid stress - stress is everywhere and at some point in your life you will feel overwhelmed. However, what you do about it can mean the difference between success and failure, as far as your overall health. You can choose to alleviate stress by recognizing your stress factors, and subsequently putting them in their proper perspective. Know your limitations and accept them.

Enjoy some "me" time everyday - set aside some alone time to relax and meditate on a daily basis. It is very easy for family caregivers to take care of everyone else's needs and overlook their own.

Stroke does not discriminate. Anyone can have a stroke and although they are rare in young people, the bad habits practiced while young can add to increased risk later in life. So make early, healthy lifestyle changes and get the entire family involved. Family support will go a long way in keeping you and your loved ones stroke free.

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