Strokes Don’t Discriminate

Take a stand. Make small changes to improve your brain function and prevent stroke.

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Strokes don’t discriminate. They can happen to anyone, at any age – and about one in four people worldwide will have one in their lifetime. World Stroke Day is Friday, October 29th, 2021, and the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association are sharing important prevention and key risk factors.

Some risk factors — such as age, race, gender and family history — are outside of your control. But you can control other risk factors. Whole-body wellness can help you feel stronger, healthier, and mentally sharp. It can also reduce your stroke risk, as well as your risk for heart disease.

“Because the causes are similar, lowering one’s risk for stroke is comparable to identifying and lowering risk for heart disease, including screening and treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, excessive weight, lack of regular exercise and tobacco use,” shared Dr. Robert H. Schwengel, MD, FACC of Southcoast Health, and Southern New England American Heart Association Board President.
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Regular exercise and a healthy diet have been shown to lower blood pressure over time.

  • Keep blood pressure in mind and under control. Get your blood pressure into a healthy range (120/80 or lower). High blood pressure is the No. 1 controllable risk factor for stroke. Work with your doctor to manage it through lifestyle changes and/or medication.
  • Eat colorful fruits and veggies. Eating a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower blood pressure over time.
  • Rest up. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night can improve brain function right away – and in the long term. Make it happen with a soothing bedtime routine. Sleep-related breathing issues may increase stroke risk, so seek treatment right away if you suspect sleep apnea or a similar problem.
  • Meditate. Emerging science shows practicing mindfulness and being aware of your breathing may significantly reduce blood pressure and may improve blood flow to the brain. A quick way to be mindful any time is to pause, notice your breath and take in little details in your surroundings.
  • Take a walk. Getting active activates brain cells, encouraging them to grow and connect more efficiently. For clear health benefits, adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of those activities). In addition, two days per week of moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening activity is recommended

Stroke can happen to anyone at any time, which means everyone needs to know the stroke warning signs and the importance of immediately calling 911.

“Significant disability and death from stroke can be minimized or prevented by early recognition and treatment,” added Dr. Schwengel. “Signs and symptoms include facial droop, extremity weakness, difficulty speaking, severe headache, confusion, and difficulty walking/balance. Any of these should prompt an immediate 9-1-1 call.”

Calling 911 helps treatment start even before you reach the hospital, improving chances for a better recovery. Remember the signs with the acronym F.A.S.T.

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Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue.”
Time to Call 911 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get to a hospital immediately. Check the time so you can tell emergency responders when the first symptoms appeared.

Knowing F.A.S.T. and responding quickly in a stroke emergency may mean the difference between recovery and disability. For more information, visit

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