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The Life You Save May Be Your Own: Stroke Awareness Month

Strokes are one of the most important occurrences people should be aware of. The CDC estimates that more than 795,000 Americans have a stroke every year—and that roughly 140,000 stroke victims die. Virtually all of us know someone who will have a stroke, so knowing how to prevent and care for a stroke can be life-saving.

“About one in 20 deaths in the United States is due to a stroke, but not everyone knows what to look for or how to recognize one when it occurs,” said Mira Pallotta, Executive Director of Brandermill Woods. “May is National Stroke Awareness Month, so we encourage everyone to review the signs of a stroke. It may just help you save a life.”

How to Recognize a Stroke—and What to Do

Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is cut off—either because of a blocked artery (an ischemic stroke) or a leaking or bursting blood vessel (a hemorrhagic stroke). When a stroke occurs, the oxygen-starved brain cells begin to die, affecting speech, movement, memory and more.

Strokes usually occur suddenly. If you experience the symptoms below, seek help. Call 911 if you are able, or try to alert someone nearby. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Numbness in the face or limbs, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusing and trouble speaking or comprehending
  • Blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness and loss of balance
  • Severe headache

The acronym FAST can help you recognize and respond to strokes in others. To respond quickly and possibly save a life, remember F-A-S-T:

  • Facial drooping – the appearance of a crooked smile)
  • Arm weakness – the inability to raise one’s arms
  • Speech difficulty – slurred or broken speech
  • Time – act quickly and dial 911

How to Prevent Strokes

While there is no surefire way to prevent a stroke, there are a number of risk factors related to lifestyle and heart health that can help decrease your risk for a stroke. These risk factors are particularly important as we age—which is why we at Brandermill Woods work hard to offer our residents plenty of opportunities for an active, heart-healthy lifestyle.

Four general steps you can take to lower your risk of stroke include:

  • Exercise every day. Two and a half hours of aerobic exercise per week can do wonders for your heart health. Even if it’s only a 20-minute walk every day, physical activity truly is the fountain of youth.
  • Eat healthy. Load your plate up with fruits and vegetables, limit your red meat, and don’t over-indulge on fats and sweets.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is terrible for your health. In addition to causing lung cancer, smoking contributes to heart disease and increases your risk for a stroke.
  • Get a physical. At your annual checkup, your physician will monitor your blood pressure, your cholesterol, and your general wellbeing, allowing you to identify risk factors in the earliest stages.

Exercise and healthy eating will help you lower your cholesterol, help prevent or control diabetes, and limit the buildup of fat in your arteries. These steps will go a long way toward preventing a stroke—and allow you to enjoy a fruitful life and a restful retirement.