In honour Stroke awareness month, we are sharing some important information you should know about the risk factors and symptoms of stroke.
There are 50,000 strokes each year in Canada making it the third largest killer of Canadian adults, after heart disease and cancer.
Seniors are at the highest risk for a stroke. Almost 75% of all strokes occur in adults over the age of 65. The surprising news is that the majority of strokes are preventable.
What is a Stroke?
A simple explanation is a stroke occurs when blood and oxygen can’t reach the brain. Sometimes it is because of a clot while other times it is a result of a blood vessel bursting. A stroke can cause permanent damage, disability, or even death if medical intervention doesn’t occur in time.
5 Common Signs of a Stroke
A stroke can be a life-threatening medical emergency. Knowing the signs and symptoms that indicate someone is experiencing a stroke can save a life. The sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the greater their chances for a full recovery.
Here are the 5 warning signs everyone should know:
- Sudden numbness or weakness: If an adult suddenly develops weakness, numbness, or tingling in their face, arm, or leg it can be the sign of a stroke. They might lose partial feeling or experience a complete loss of feeling and function.
- Loss of coordination: Difficulty walking, dizziness, and a loss of coordination can all occur when the brain is deprived of oxygen. These are signs that require immediate emergency care.
- Trouble with speech and confusion: Problems articulating words, slurred speech or speaking nonsensical words can be symptoms of a stroke. Confusion and disorientation can often accompany speech problems, too.
- Loss of vision: Loss of vision in one or both eyes or blurry vision is another warning sign of a stroke. A person experiencing a stroke may experience double vision.
- Sudden, severe headache: A sudden and severe headache is another sign of a stroke. It often occurs without any warning.
Call 911 without delay if an adult in your company is exhibiting any of these warning signs.
Who is at Higher Risk for Stroke?
The risk factors of a stroke fall in to two categories: those that we gave control over and those we don’t.
Uncontrollable risk factors:
• Age: The risk of stroke more than doubles every decade between the ages of 55 and 85.
• Genetics: If an immediate family has experienced a stroke, your risk might also be higher. Sometimes it is linked to a family history of high blood pressure or diabetes, two leading causes of strokes.
• Gender: Your gender also impacts your risk for suffering and surviving a stroke. While men have more strokes than women, strokes are more deadly for women.
Controllable risk factors for strokes:
- Smoking cigarettes: Smoking 20 cigarettes a day, can make you six times more likely to have a stroke compared to a nonsmoker. Tobacco smoke effects include thickening the blood, increasing the risk of blood clots and narrowing the arteries which put you at risk of stroke. It’s never too late to quit! Talk to your doctor and together you can make a plan to help you quit forever.
- Obesity: Obesity can increase the risk of stroke due to inflammation caused by excess fatty tissue. This can lead to difficulty in blood flow and an increased risk of blockage, both of which can cause stroke. Working with your doctor you can achieve and maintain a healthy body weight through diet and exercise.
- High blood pressure: Weakened arteries in the brain, resulting from high blood pressure, put you at a much higher risk for stroke. Working with your doctor and managing stress can help keep your blood pressure at healthy levels.
- Diabetes: Diabetes can cause pathologic changes in blood vessels at various locations and can lead to stroke if cerebral vessels are directly affected. It’s important to control blood sugar levels and learn to manage your diabetes. Your doctor can help you control your diabetes.
- Too much alcohol consumption: Research has shown that drinking large amounts of alcohol can greatly increase your risk of having a stroke. Limiting your alcohol consumption can help you prevent stroke.
- High cholesterol: Our body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but cholesterol levels that are too high can increase your risk of heart disease. High cholesterol, puts you at risk of developing fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits can grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a stroke. Working with your doctor you can control cholesterol levels.
Can Lifestyle Prevent Strokes in Seniors?
The good news is that working with your doctor to create a plan and adopting a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk for stroke by as much as 75% even if you are an over 55.