“Be Healthy” is one of the Six Simple Rules for a Better Life and I’ve got plenty to say about eating habits, exercise, and more in my book. For this post, I’m pleased to be able to share an informative piece from an organization that is doing great work for people who are affected by aphasia – a condition that I first became aware of just two years ago. The tips presented here are valuable health suggestions for all of us.
This is a guest post by Elissa Goldstein of the Adler Aphasia Center, a non-profit community center that addresses the long-term needs of people with aphasia, a language disorder caused by stroke or other brain injury.
The onset of a stroke can seem so sudden, but the trouble begins long before the first symptoms. Weakened blood vessels are at the heart of every stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted due to a burst or blocked blood vessel. If blood flow is stopped for several seconds, brain cells can die resulting in permanent damage. A stroke is typically referred to as a “brain attack.” Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and is the leading cause of aphasia, a communication disorder that is caused by damage to the areas in the brain that control language. Between 20%-40% of people who have a stroke will have aphasia. Aphasia can affect all aspects of language, including speaking, understanding what others say, reading, and writing. Aphasia does not affect intelligence, but it does affect a person’s ability to communicate with others. It is estimated that 2 million Americans have aphasia.
The good news about stroke is that it does take a long time for plaque to clog your vessels; just as it takes a long time for high blood pressure to weaken and damage those vessels. If you are one of the lucky ones who haven’t suffered a stroke yet, it’s time to seriously consider adding stroke-preventing strategies into your lifestyle. But for those of you who have suffered a stroke, read on. Stroke survivors are not only at greater risk of having another one, but recurrent strokes can be more deadly and more debilitating than the first stroke because of the damage created from previous strokes. Here are some helpful facts that will keep your health in check:
- Educate yourself about stroke symptoms- Symptoms include sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden severe headache with no known cause.
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure- Know your blood pressure and have it checked at least once a year, if not more. Diet and medication can correct high blood pressure.
- Limit your alcohol intake- Drinking one or two glasses of wine, or the alcohol equivalent, each day may actually lower your risk for stroke (provided that there is no other medical reason you should avoid alcohol). Heavy drinking can increase your risk for stroke.
- Stay fit and maintain a healthy weight- A brisk walk or other activity for as little as 30 minutes a day can improve your health in many ways, and may reduce your risk for stroke. Aerobic exercise is so good for stroke prevention because it stops clots that can cause a stroke by preventing the buildup of plaque in blood vessels. It increases your endurance and strengthens the cardiovascular system.
- Skip foods high in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats- By cutting down on sodium, cholesterol and fat in your diet, you may be able to lower your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol level and most importantly, keep those arteries clean, thus lowering your risk for stroke.
- Limit diet soda intake- recent studies suggest a connection between drinking diet soda and the risk of stroke and heart attack.
- Take charge of your cholesterol levels- Know your cholesterol number. If it is high, work with your doctor to control it. Lowering your cholesterol may reduce your risk for stroke. Having high cholesterol can indirectly increase stroke risk by putting you at greater risk of heart disease, another stroke risk factor.
- Stop smoking- Smoking doubles the risk for stroke. If you stop smoking today, your risk for stroke will immediately begin to drop.
- Know the location of your nearest stroke center- More than half of Americans don’t know where the closest stroke-certified hospitals are, according to the American Stroke Association. If you are experiencing symptoms but don’t know where the nearest stroke center is in your area, it’s impossible to act quickly.
Evaluating your current lifestyle and making the appropriate changes now can go a long way toward promoting a healthy brain and body.