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Stroke Prevention

Earlier this week, my father-in-law Arnold suffered a stroke. Though he has been wonderfully healthy throughout his long life, at 93 years old, his prognosis for recovery is not optimistic. This has been a trying time for my family, and I’m reminded that strokes can strike anyone of any age at any time (tragically, I’ve even treated some children who’ve had strokes).

The third leading cause of death in the U.S., a stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is drastically reduced or cut off completely, resulting in impaired brain function and brain cell death. Because of their commonalities with heart attacks, strokes are sometimes called “brain attacks.”

For this reason, it’s important for everyone to know (and periodically review) the signs of stroke and what steps you should take if you suspect you or someone near you is experiencing a stroke. Remember the FAST test:

1. Face – Ask them to smile. Does part of their face droop?
2. Arms – Ask them to raise both arms. Does one arm wander?
3. Speech – Are their words slurred? Can they repeat a simple sentence?
4. Time – Time is of the essence. Call 911 immediately if the person exhibits any of the above symptoms.

On the brighter side, up to 80% of strokes are preventable, according to the National Stroke Association. Given the repercussions of having a stroke, it makes sense to do all you can to prevent yourself from having one in the first place. Some risk factors (such as being over age 55 or having a family history of stroke and/or heart attack) you can’t change, but most others can be lowered or eliminated by lifestyle adjustments. Risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity can be treated with exercise, diet, and medication as prescribed by your doctor. Drink only in moderation. If you use birth control pills, follow all directions and receive regular checks from your doctor. Engage in stress-reducing techniques, and as for smoking and illegal drug use – just don’t do it.

We pray that all of you will live long, healthy lives unaffected by strokes, but take charge of your health today. Stroke prevention is possible, but it’s in your hands. Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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