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National Stroke Awareness Month

Rosanne Ullman | May 19, 2014 | 8:47 AM

National Stroke Awareness MonthNearly 800,000 strokes occur in the U.S. each year, causing about 133,000 deaths. However, many stroke victims survive; an estimated 7 million Americans alive today have survived strokes. The risk of stroke increases with age, and more women than men have strokes. In fact, each year women are twice as likely to die from stroke than breast cancer. We have made some progress—the death rate from stroke fell in the decade from 1998 to 2008.

May, National Stroke Awareness Month, is a good time to become educated about how to recognize stroke and potentially save a life. As beauty professionals, you see a lot of clients for hours at a time—anything can happen! When you’re trying to determine whether someone has had a stroke, the acronym to remember is FAST:

F = FACE. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A = ARMS. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = SPEECH. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T = TIME. Act immediately and call 911 if you observe even one of these signs.

Lowering Risk

Atrial fibrillation, or “Afib,” refers to an abnormal heartbeat that can increase stroke risk by 500 percent. Afib can cause blood to pool in the heart and perhaps form a clot that causes a stroke. At your annual checkup, your doctor will listen to your heartbeat and diagnose and treat Afib if it’s present.

Other than treatment for an Afib condition, lowering your stroke risk involves many of the habits that contribute to overall health:

1. Maintain recommended blood pressure levels.
2. Stop smoking. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke.
3. Control alcohol use. Most doctors recommend no more than two drinks per day.
4. Maintain recommended cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels can clog arteries and cause a stroke.
5. Control diabetes. Many people with diabetes have health problems that are also stroke risk factors.
6. Exercise and maintain a nutritional diet.

The exercise doesn’t have to be intensive. Sophia Wang, Ph.D., associate professor at City of Hope's Department of Population Sciences, reports on a study of more than 133,000 women that found that moderate activity like brisk walking, recreational tennis, golf and bicycling on flat surfaces cut the risk of stroke by 20 percent and, additionally, offset some of the increase in stroke risk associated with hormone replacement therapy. Increasing the exercise intensity did not appear to further cut the risk of stroke.

“I was surprised that moderate physical activity was most strongly associated with a reduced risk of stroke,” Wang says. “Moderate activity, such as brisk walking, appeared to be ideal in this scenario.”

For more information, visit the National Stroke Association website.

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