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For your health: Knowing the symptoms, signs of stroke

POSTED: May 4, 2014 1:00 a.m.

This year, in the United States alone, someone will have a stroke every four seconds, totaling 795,000 strokes. Sadly, about 80 percent of strokes are preventable.

Based on the numbers, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of adult disability.

Since May is Stroke Awareness Month, read on to learn more about the symptoms, risk factors and response to stroke.

Many stroke risk factors can be managed or controlled, reducing the risk of stroke.

High blood pressure

This is the leading risk factor for stroke. Work with your health care provider to keep your blood pressure below 140/90. If you have diabetes or have had a heart attack in the past, it should be below 130/80.

High cholesterol

Keep your LDL or bad cholesterol below 100. A healthy diet and regular exercise will help. If more is needed, your health care provider may advise medication.

Diabetes

Manage your diet and blood sugar to keep your A1C less than 7 percent and your glucose before meals between 70 and 130.

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (a-fib) is a particular type of abnormal heart rhythm that may cause blood clots to be released into your bloodstream. A person with a-fib is five times more likely to have a stroke.

If you have a-fib, work closely with your health care provider to manage the risks, take the appropriate medication and follow-up blood tests if needed.

Tobacco use/smoking

Smoking doubles the risk for stroke. Set a quit date and stick to it.

Call the free Georgia Quit Line at 877-270-7867 for assistance or 877-266-3863 for Spanish. Talk to your primary care physician about medications that may help you quit.

Alcohol use

If you drink, keep alcohol consumption light to moderate. This means no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for non-pregnant women. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

Physical inactivity

A walking program (30-minute walk, 5 times or more per week) can reduce your stroke risk.

Symptoms of a possible stroke include:

* Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

* Confusion

* Trouble speaking or understanding

* Trouble seeing in one or both eyes

* Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

* Sudden severe headache

What should you do? Call 911!

Don’t try to drive the person to the hospital in a private car.

For more information about stroke, visit The American Stroke Association at www.strokeassociation.org or the National Stroke Association at www.stroke.org.

Trish Westbrook is a registered nurse and stroke coordinator at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.


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