Preventing a Stroke: What You Can Do Now
by Joseph D. Tabora, M.D.
This article starts below.
Stroke is a dreaded but preventable disease. People who had a stroke may have difficulty doing things you take for granted: walking by yourself, combing your hair, and feeding yourself. Preventing a stroke from happening is the only way to avoid its dreadful sequelae. Checking your blood pressure, knowing your cholesterol level, watching out for signs of diabetes, and quitting cigarette smoking are four steps you can do today to reduce your risk of having a stroke.
Check your blood pressure
Checking your blood pressure is an easy first step in reducing your risk for stroke. Keeping your blood pressure within the ideal range is the objective of this first step.
Blood pressure and stroke
It is not easy to picture the link between an elevated blood pressure and stroke. This is because you may continue to feel good even when your blood pressure is high (above 140/90 mmHg). "Why should I take medicine for hypertension when I feel fine?" is the question in the mind of a number of hypertensive patients.
Not correcting an elevated blood pressure because of its lack of symptoms is a fatal, short term view of hypertension. You may have some difficulty peeking ten years into the future with an untreated hypertension, but physicians see the outcome everyday. Stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure are some of the complications that we see everyday from people who adopted the short-term view of hypertension.
Hypertension is a silent killer. Everyday that it remains uncorrected, it leaves an imperceptible injury to the arteries that carry blood to the brain, the heart and the other vital organs. Add these minute injuries over several years and you will see the endpoint: stroke (among other complications).
What you can do now
Check your blood pressure. If it is above 140/90 mmHg, check it the day after. If your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90 mmHg, consult your doctor.
If you are taking medicine for hypertension, check your blood pressure. If it is still high despite taking your medicine everyday, go back to your doctor. You may need a dose adjustment or another drug. The objective is to reach a target blood pressure of less than 140/90 mm Hg to avoid the long-term complications of hypertension.
Know your cholesterol level
An elevated blood cholesterol level is similar to hypertension in that both may not produce any drastic symptom. Your cholesterol may be high but you won't necessarily feel anything different and you certainly won't be motivated to bring it down. Until you see the complications.
Another silent killer
Everyday that your blood cholesterol remain high, a very thin layer of cholesterol is deposited on your arteries. This thin layer of cholesterol will not cause any symptom until it gets thick enough to block the artery or until a chunk gets dislodged and obstructs a smaller artery. When that happens, a stroke will occur.
What to do?
Check your blood cholesterol. If it is high, consult your doctor.
Be selective of what you eat. Trim out the fat. Eat lean meat. Better yet, go for the fish and vegetables. Choose grilled over fried.
Watch out for diabetes
Excessive appetite, thirst and urination (polyphagia, polydipsia, polyuria) are three classic symptoms of diabetes. While diabetes is not commonly perceived to be connected to stroke, diabetes hastens the thickening of arteries which may lead to stroke.
Silent killers all
An elevated blood sugar speeds up the thickening of the walls of arteries. When left uncorrected for years, the affected artery hardens and thickens until the artery is obliterated. When this obliterated artery happens to supply blood to the brain, a stroke will transpire.
What to do
If you have symptoms of diabetes, see your doctor. If you are diabetic, regularly check your blood sugar. If it is consistently elevated, see your doctor. Your aim is to get your sugar level within the ideal range to get the benefit from your medicines and reduce the complications of diabetes.
Quit cigarette smoking
Aside from increasing your risk for stroke, cigarette smoking also increases your risk for lip cancer, oral cavity cancer, pharyngeal cancer, laryngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Do not forget your higher risk for having a heart attack, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. You have everything to gain from quitting the habit.
The ball is in your hands
You now have the knowledge on how to reduce your risk of stroke. Remember the four steps. Tell them to your family and friends. But don't forget to do the most important thing: act today. Do the four steps today. Ask your family and friends to do the four steps today. And we would have done our part in preventing another stroke from happening.