Thursday, September 15, 2011

What is a stroke?

Stroke is a cardiovascular event. Stroke happens when blood pressure is chronically high. Provided your not in the hospital and suddenly develope high blood pressure. High blood pressure causes a whole cascade of chemical events within the cardiovascular system, which over time causes cardiovascular disease. Irregular heart beats: arythmias alter blood flow which can form clots. These clots will form on the inside of the vein or artery and impede blood flow. The restriction of blood flow will increase the force of blood within the vascular system leading to clot dislodgement. This clot will then travel to the brain. At which time, stroke occurs. Brain cells will begin to die.

Historically, individuals who experienced a stroke had no idea of what was about to happen to them. With that being said, the best action you can take is to be pro-active. Prevent a stroke by living a healthy lifestyle. A few check points to help you get on track:

1. We know high blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. Know your numbers. Go for your annual physical exam. Your goal is to have a low systolic with a lower diastolic within normal range. Discuss the range with your doctor.
2. Learn if you have a regular heart rhythm and rate. You can find out by having an EKG. Discuss this with your doctor.
3. Do you have diabetes? Diabetes has damaging effects on blood vessels leading to atherosclerosis: hardening of the arteries. This hardening causes restriction of blood flow.
4. Blood tests: lipid panels. This will tell you the amount of fats traveling through your blood system. If your cholesterol level is high, work to lower it. Again, fats will cause a clot.
5. Smoker? Smoke constricts the blood vessels thereby increasing blood pressure and damaging the inner wall of blood vessels, the heart, lungs, etc. Remember, once the pollutants from cigarette smoke enter your blood stream, those pollutants are carried throughout your body..not just the lungs. Simply put, quit. There are plenty of resources out there to help. You can start by visiting http://www.cancer.org/.
6. Maintain a healthy weight. Eat foods that are nutritionally sound. A balanced diet incorporated with daily exercise will decrease your chances of stroke. Your doctor is the best resource for you to learn about sound diets and exercise. Discuss this with him/her.

Stroke symptoms include sudden weakness, one-sided face droop, slurred speech, difficulty in speaking, visual changes, headache, dizziness, unstable gait.

While genetics, race and age cannot be controlled, you still can reduce your chances of stroke by making a few simple lifestyle changes you can control. 

Good health,
Trisha M. Pacenti RN,BSN