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Friday, December 6, 2013
Stroke- Am I at risk?
After my father had his stroke, someone told me that I have a higher risk of having a stroke because of it. Is this true? If so, what are some lifestyle changes that I can make to try to reduce my risk? Also, what are some common symptoms of a stroke to look out for, just in case?
Yes, it is true that those with a family history of stroke have a slightly increased risk of having a stroke themselves.
There are some risk factors for stroke that you can't change: age (older patients have higher risk), race/ethnicity (African-Americans are at higher risk than whites), family history, gender (men have higher risk).
There are some risk factors that you CAN change or modify:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- obesity/low physical activity
- cigarette smoking
- heart disease, especially an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation
These are things that you should work on with your physician's guidance. You should be monitored by your physician for these conditions and then he/she can help to modify your risk with appropriate medications or with an exercise plan.
Common symptoms of stroke include:
SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body.
SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.
Another way to remember this is "FAST", which emphasizes the most common symptoms.
F = face (weakness or numbness)
A = arm (weakness or numbness)
S = speech (slurred, or difficulty understanding language or speaking)
T = time (time to call 911--treatment can only be offered in the first three hours after symptoms start)
Once symptoms start, it is important to call 911 because tPA can be given in the first three hours and can potentially reverse the stroke symptoms or make them better.
Brett Kissela, MD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
Director, Neurology Residency Program
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati