Think of a stroke as a brain attack. When blood flow to the brain is cut off, it becomes deprived of oxygen, and the functions of that part of the brain – such as memory or muscle control – can be lost.
Symptoms of a stroke can be sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body, confusion or trouble speaking, vision problems in one or both eyes, dizziness or loss of balance, and a sudden severe headache.
A stroke can result in relatively minor inconveniences. It can also mean a major disability, or even death.
That’s why knowing how to prevent a stroke can help. Here are common risk factors and what you can do to avoid them.
Control your blood pressure
The force of blood pushing against the arteries causes the heart to work harder. This, in turn, damages the blood vessels, causing them to burst or form clots.
If you neglect to take blood pressure medication that has been prescribed to you, it can increase your risk for stroke.
Tell your doctor about irregular heart rates
Atrial fibrillation – a rapid, irregular heartbeat – is a major culprit for strokes. It can cause blood to pool in the heart, creating clots that travel to the brain.
“The biggest [risk] is having high blood pressure, followed by atrial fibrillation,” said Julie Herrold, director of nursing for Solaris HealthCare, in an interview with Fox 4. “Once you can control these, you can prevent your strokes.”
Check if you’ve had a temporary stroke
A temporary stroke is called a transient ischemic attack. It mimics the symptoms of a stroke, but those symptoms are gone in about 24 hours.
You can take a TIA risk assessment on the National Stroke Association website. If you suspect you have experienced a TIA, it is crucial to visit your doctor to prevent a stroke in the future.
Manage your lifestyle
An unhealthy diet causes plaque buildup in your arteries, which can lead to clots that travel to the brain. One way to combat plaque buildup is to eat more whole foods and cut back on foods high in cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats, such as animal products and dairy.
Another important part of lifestyle is to limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking. Moderate alcohol consumption is no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Finally, add 30 minutes of exercise to your daily routine, at least three times a week.
Study your family medical history
If you have a family history of strokes or diabetes, you need to take stroke prevention seriously. Diabetes is a well-established risk factor for stroke because it causes pathological changes in blood vessels, according to the American Journal of the Medical Sciences. This can lead to stroke if these changes happen in the brain.
Get into rehabilitation
If you have already had a stroke, rehabilitation is key to recovery. Rehab typically starts within 48 hours after your stroke and will change as you move from inpatient to outpatient facilities.
How you choose a rehab center “depends on your needs, what your insurance will pay for and, ultimately, what’s most convenient for you and your family,” Herrold said.
When recovering from a stroke, people should consider a skilled nursing facility, like Solaris HealthCare, which has a full physical therapy department that works with patients seven days a week. It also offers speech and occupational therapy.
“We have a nursing department that is there to meet your specialized training for emotional and physical needs, things your family would find too challenging to take care of,” Herrold said. “This is an interdisciplinary team that’s going to stick with you to regain that independence you lost when you had that brain attack.”
If you need to manage stroke rehabilitation for a loved one, contact Solaris HealthCare for more information about its rehab programs.