Stroke—Are You at Risk?

By Dr. Michael Popejoy

Stroke, medically known as a cerebral vascular accident, can happen to anyone at any age. However, men and women over 55 are more likely to suffer a rapid onset brain bleed due to either a blood clot blocking a key blood vessel, which starves the brain cells of vital nutrients and oxygen, or a burst blood vessel that causes a bleeding event into the cranial cavity pressing and damages brain tissue.

Popejoy july 31Can we prevent a stroke? Or after suffering a stroke, when we are most susceptible to another stroke, can we prevent the subsequent stroke event?

There are both controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for stroke. The uncontrollable risk factors include age, gender, race and family history and other health disorders such as atrial fibrillation. Thankfully, there are risk factors that are within our control and can help prevent an initial stroke or subsequent strokes.

Obesity is a primary risk since it also contributes to both high blood pressure and high cholesterol. So, it is imperative for the high risk stroke patient to lose weight and exercise daily and improve their diet dramatically. Go to the gym, walk, swim or bicycle. But get at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise daily.

Monitor blood pressure and blood sugar and get them under control. Diabetics are more likely to suffer a stroke as well as those with high blood pressure. None of these suggestions are absolute assurances that you will not suffer a stroke; but, they are the risk factors that can be controlled as you hope for the best outcomes from living a healthy lifestyle. Of course, you must stop smoking and drinking. In addition, it is important to work on finding ways to reduce your stress level. Get plenty of high quality sleep each day.

It is also important to know the signs of a stroke so that you can seek emergency medical attention as quickly as possible. Emergency treatment given in a timely manner can reduce the stroke’s damage by busting the clot with drugs and protecting living brain tissue with various procedures including neurosurgery on the brain to relieve the pressure exerted by a brain bleed stroke.

Although there is no absolute way to prevent a stroke, we can embrace the controllable risk factors and thus distance ourselves from the possibility of a stroke due to a poor lifestyle. Changes must be made if a man or woman wants to avoid a stroke.

My stroke literally changed my life in so many wonderful ways. I am closer to my family. I avoid stress. I have lost over 100 pounds. I walk and work out in the gym daily. At age 60, I am actually developing a fabulous body and endurance. This has placed both my blood pressure and blood sugar on much more strict control as my diet is very different.

Does this all sound too hard and that too much willpower is needed? Maybe. But if your life depends on the changes, you can make the changes to live longer and with a better quality of life. You can do it. For yourself and your family, you must do it.

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