stroke awareness

Stroke Awareness Month

As you age, health becomes an important focus in your life.

By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.

As you age, health becomes an important focus in your life so that you can continue doing the things you enjoy. A reality that is often hard to admit is that aging also increases your risk for specific health conditions. 

Stroke & Aging 

Whether you’re a man or a woman, you have an increased risk of having a stroke after the age of 55 years old.1 This makes it important to learn about stroke prevention and knowing the signs and symptoms. 

What is a stroke? A stroke takes place when there is a lack of blood flow to the brain, or a blood vessel in the brain is damaged, that results in sudden loss of brain function.2  

The effects of a stroke depend on which part of the brain is affected and how much damage is done to brain cells.2-4

Some examples of symptoms after a stroke include:4,5

  • weakness or inability to move left or right side of the body
  • vision problems
  • impaired memory 
  • personality/behavioural changes
  • problems with balance

Interestingly, women may have unique symptoms that appear suddenly: 6

  • numbness in face

  • hiccups

  • pain in face or limbs

  • chest pain, shortness of breath & palpitations

Can strokes be prevented? There are risk factors for stroke that you can control and some that you cannot (your age, genetics, gender and ethnicity). The good news is that controlling risk factors can help you reduce the likelihood of having a stroke!7

The following are some risk factors that you can control:

  • high blood pressure

  • high cholesterol

  • diabetes

  • excess weight

  • excessive alcohol intake

  • lack of physical activity 

  • smoking

  • stress

Diet & Lifestyle

All the risk factors mentioned above can be controlled through diet and lifestyle modifications. The interesting thing about modifying these risk factors is that once one is lowered, the others tend to follow!

Nutrition

Choosing wholesome foods to include in your diet can help you achieve a weight that is right for you and reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Whole grains, vegetables & fruits, legumes, lean meats & fish, fibre and healthy oils are all part of a healthy diet.

Cooking a meal that is tasty and nutritious is really the only way to eat healthier and KEEP eating healthy. If it doesn’t taste good – the chances of eating an unhealthy option with more flavour is higher!  

Chicken Farmers of Canada have a multitude of healthy chicken recipes to guide you along your journey to good nutrition. Here’s a great link to the Recipe of the Week page where you can find recipes that fit your nutritional needs and experiment with healthy eating each week!

Physical Activity 

Nutrition & physical activity should always be connected. Participating in physical activity strengthens your entire body including your heart, lungs and brain. It can also reduce stress! It is recommended that adults have a minimum of 150 minutes/week of moderate to vigorous physical activity.8 This could be riding a bike, walking with friends, swimming or playing a sport!  

Smoking/Alcohol

Both smoking and drinking alcohol in excess has effects on the other risk factors noted above and also may increase chances of blood clotting. 9,10 Trying to take steps to avoid smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation and following a healthy active life can drastically reduce your chances of stroke.9,10

Stroke Awareness Month

June is Stroke Awareness month and a great time to discuss with family members the signs, symptoms and risk factors for strokes. Responding immediately to warning signs of a stroke and calling 9-1-1 is extremely important.  Please see this link from the Heart & Stroke foundation for five warning signs of a stroke.

References: 

  1. National Stroke Association. (2014). Uncontrollable Risk Factors. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=uncont

  2. Heart & Stroke Foundation. (2012). What is a stroke? Retrieved June 4, 2014, from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3483935/k.736A/Stroke__What_is_Stroke.htm?gclid=CLnk3amT7b4CFeZaMgodASgA0w

  3. Heart & Stroke Foundation. (2014). Statistics. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3483991/k.34A8/Statistics.htm

  4. Heart & Stroke Foundation. (2008). Effects of a Stroke. Retrieved, June 4, 2014, from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484157/k.8AD7/Stroke__Effects_of_a_stroke.htm

  5. Heart & Stroke Foundation. (2014). Stroke Signs. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3483937/k.ED98/Stroke__Stroke_Warning_Signs.htm

  6. National Stroke Association. (2014). Unique Symptoms in Women. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=womsymp

  7. Heart & Stroke Foundation. (2012). Stroke Prevention. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3483939/k.16FB/Stroke__Stroke_prevention_and_risk_factors.htm

  8. Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2011). Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada Position Statement: Physical Activity, Heart Disease and Stroke. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.5263145/k.FA7C/Physical_Activity_Heart_Disease_and_Stroke.htm

  9. Stroke Association. (2012). Smoking and the risk of stroke. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from http://www.stroke.org.uk/sites/default/files/Smoking%20and%20the%20risk%20of%20stroke.pdf

  10. Stroke Association. (2012). Alcohol & Stroke. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from http://www.stroke.org.uk/sites/default/files/Alcohol%20and%20stroke_0.pdf

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