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The Importance of Lifestyle Changes in Preventing Stroke

  • Category: News
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  • Written By: Allied Services Integrated Health
The Importance of Lifestyle Changes in Preventing Stroke

1 in 4 adults will have a stroke in their lifetime, and stroke is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. The good news is that the combined effect of education and awareness campaigns has improved our ability to recognize the signs of a stroke. The FAST acronym – Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911 – has become an easy to remember tool for all ages about spotting stroke and getting help, fast. Prompt treatment may make all the difference between life and death and the extent of recovery or future physical and cognitive limitations.

Additionally, treatment protocols have come a long way in the past 10 years. Rehabilitation technology utilizing robotics, virtual reality and biomechanical feedback have stretched the limits of how quickly and fully an individual can recover. At Allied Services, our rehabilitation professionals have access to technology that often enables them to restore life-altering function to stroke survivors in the days and years following a stroke.

While better recognition of symptoms, prompt treatment and advancements in stroke rehabilitation may mean that the prognosis for some stroke survivors is more hopeful than in the past, prevention should still be seen as our best tool in the fight against stroke.

A stroke can happen to anyone but there are some things that increase your risk of a stroke. Age and family history of a stroke make us more susceptible to stroke. These risk factors aren’t reversible however, knowing our level of risk can lead us to make better informed decisions about your health.

Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation and high cholesterol, and lifestyle factors such as drinking, smoking and physical inactivity all significantly increase our stroke risk. These 7 steps all work together to improve overall health and reduce the risk of a stroke.

  • Lower your blood pressure: adjustments to diet and exercise, and quitting smoking will improve your vascular health.
  • Lose weight: if you are overweight, losing as little as 10 lbs can have a real impact on your stroke risk.
  • Exercise more: exercise is an independent stroke reducer and positively impacts both weight and blood pressure.
  • Moderate or eliminate alcohol: if you’re going to drink alcohol do it in moderation to reduce the impact on overall health.
  • Treat atrial fibrillation: atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular that causes clots to form in the heart.
  • Treat diabetes: high blood sugar is damaging to blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them..
  • Quit smoking: smoking thickens your blood and increase the amount if plaque buildup in the arteries, accelerating clot formation.

Stroke prevention for stroke survivors is equally important. According to the American Stroke Association, 1 in 4 stroke and heart attack patients will have another. Many of the steps in reducing another stroke are the same – managing your blood pressure and specific medical conditions, making healthy lifestyle choices and so on – however, you should work with your doctor and rehabilitation team to create a personalized plan. For example, while physical activity is recommended for stroke survivors, many people may have anxiety and practical concerns about being more active. A physical therapist can help to identify ways that you can increase your physical activity in a safe way taking into consideration any mobility, vision or balance issues.

Dr. Michael Wolk is the Medical Director of Allied Services Rehab Hospital in Scranton and Medical Director of the Stroke Rehabilitation Unit and Outpatient Services at Allied Services in Scranton.

Learn more about stroke recovery at Allied Services.