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Do Your Part to Prevent Stroke

If you’ve read the statistics on stroke then you know why it’s important to take preventive measures. Doing so can make a very significant difference. Scientists at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke predict that, with continued attention to reducing the risks of stroke and by using currently available therapies and developing new ones, Americans should be able to prevent 80 percent of all strokes.

Perhaps the best step toward preventing stroke is to simply understand it better. Understand the risk factors and how you assess when it comes to stroke. If you carry a specific risk, take steps to reduce it. Below we suggest specific preventive measures for the different risk factors.

High Blood Pressure

Maintain your proper weight. Avoid drugs known to raise blood pressure. Cut down on salt. Eat fruits and vegetables to increase potassium in your diet. Exercise more. Your doctor may prescribe medicines that help lower blood pressure. Controlling blood pressure will also help you avoid heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure.

Cigarette Smoking

Your doctor can recommend programs and medications that may help you quit smoking. By quitting, at any age, you also reduce your risk of lung disease, heart disease and a number of cancers including lung cancer.

Heart Disease

Your doctor will treat your heart disease and may also prescribe medication, such as aspirin, to help prevent the formation of clots. Your doctor may recommend surgery to clean out a clogged neck artery if you match a particular risk profile. If you are over 50, you and your doctor should make a decision about aspirin therapy. A doctor can evaluate your risk factors and help you decide if you will benefit from aspirin or other blood-thinning therapy.

Warning Signs or History of Stroke

If you experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA), get help at once. Dial 911 for emergency medical assistance. If you have had a stroke in the past, it's important to reduce your risk of a second stroke. Your brain helps you recover from a stroke by drawing on body systems that now do double duty. That means a second stroke can be twice as bad.

Diabetes

You may think this disorder affects only the body's ability to use sugar, or glucose. But it also causes destructive changes in the blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain. Also, if blood glucose levels are high at the time of a stroke, then brain damage is usually more severe and extensive than when blood glucose is well controlled. Treating diabetes can delay the onset of complications that increase the risk of stroke.

Sleep Apnea

For mild cases of obstructive sleep apnea, treatment often consists of using methods to avoid sleeping on one’s back. For people with significant nasal congestion, a decongestant therapy may be prescribed. Patients with obstructive and central apnea should avoid central nervous system depressants such as alcoholic beverages, sedatives and narcotics. Weight loss and diet control are encouraged for overweight patients. Many serious cases of obstructive sleep apnea can be relieved by a treatment called nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nasal CPAP). Nasal CPAP uses a mask-like device and pump that work together to keep the airway open with air pressure during each inspiration. Surgery may benefit some patients by eliminating or reducing the narrowing of the airway due to anatomical defects.

 
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