STROKES – THE FIFTH LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN AMERICABy Leslie Terjesen on Monday, May 9, 2016
“Although stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in America and a leading cause of adult disability, many myths surround this disease,” said Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. “Did you know that up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable and can happen to anyone at any time?”
Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Public Health Coordinator, pointed out that that you need to understand your risk factors and speak with your health care professional about your risk. Some risk factors are:
**Heredity – a family member who had had a heart attack or stroke puts you at a higher risk.
**A history of TIAs. Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA’s) produce stroke-like symptoms that can last a few minutes or up to 24 hours but usually do not cause permanent damage or disability. TIA’s are a warning sign of stroke.
**Age – after age 55, the chance of suffering a stroke doubles every decade.
**Race – African-Americans are more at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity and are also more at-risk for stroke than Caucasians.
**Gender – annually nearly 55,000 more women than men have strokes. This is because women live longer than men and stroke occurs more often at older ages.
**Medical conditions – many people have existing medical conditions that can affect cardiovascular health and thus increase the chance of stroke.
In addition to speaking with your health care provider to identify conditions that can increase your risk for stroke, there are things you can do yourself to improve your cardiovascular health. Although all together it may seem daunting, you can focus on a few at a time.
**Stop Smoking – smoking accelerates clot formation, thickens blood and increase the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. If you smoke, STOP. Talk to your doctor about quit-smoking aids and remember it sometimes takes several tries to stop.
**Watch what you eat – try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with foods that are high in fiber. Limiting salt can help lower your blood pressure. Eat less cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat and trans fats.
**Maintain a healthy weight – carrying extra weight can make you more apt to develop high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes – all which can increase the risk for stroke.
**Be active – physical activity can help you lose weight and reduce stress – which can lower blood pressure, help lower cholesterol, control diabetes and improve overall health.
**Drink less – drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure and the risk of stroke. Aim to drink in moderation.
Take the Stroke Assessment Test which can be found under RESOURCES on the OCHD website at www.ochd.org or follow the Health Department on Twitter@OCpublichealth.