LIVING HEALTHY – DR. ROBIN MILLEREach year in the U.S. over 700,000 people suffer a stroke and over 143,000 people die as a result. Three-quarters of those who suffer a stroke are over 65 years old. It is important to know who is at risk and how to recognize the symptoms. A stroke occurs when there is lack of blood flow to the brain.

The risk factors for a stroke are similar to those for a heart attack. These include: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle. A family history of stroke, a history of a previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), increasing age and alcohol abuse can also increase the risk of stroke.

The long-term consequences of a stroke can be devastating. That is why it is important to prevent them. You can do this by reducing your risk and modifying your risk factors. Quit smoking; keep your blood pressure and cholesterol down. Eat healthy and exercise. Take folic acid as part of your vitamin regimen.

What are the symptoms and warning signs of a stroke, they include:

* Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

* Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

* Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

* Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

* Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Other danger signs that may occur include double vision, drowsiness, and nausea or vomiting. Sometimes the warning signs may last only a few moments and then disappear. These brief episodes, known as transient ischemic attacks or TIAs, are sometimes called “mini-strokes.” Since they may clear quickly, many people ignore them but that is a mistake. Many people with a TIA have a stroke within 48 hours.

Finally, here is an easy way to know what to do….FAST! 

Face: Ask the person to smile and see if there is a facial droop.

Arms: Ask the person to lift their arms and see if one drifts down.

Speech: Ask them to speak and see if they slur their speech.

Time: Call 911 if you see any of these signs.

If you think you are having a stroke call 911. Time is of the essence. It is possible in some cases to reverse the damage of a stroke if you are treated within hours of having symptoms. Find out more about stroke in my book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife and Beyond.”

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