By Rebecca Fending
May is American Stroke Awareness Month, and with it, a good reason to learn or brush up on prevention, warning signs and how to help those dealing with the aftermath.
Preventing a stroke largely boils down to fostering a healthy lifestyle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best way to help prevent the risk of a stroke is by adopting a low-fat, high fiber diet. This helps keep cholesterol levels in check to ensure that blood flow (especially to the brain) is not impaired. Regular light exercise is another way in which you can promote and regulate healthy blood flow throughout the body and brain. A byproduct of this is lowering your risk of heart disease, as well!
The CDC also recommends keeping an eye on your blood pressure. Hypertension can cause arteries to burst, cutting off circulation to the brain. Hypotension can create a lack of circulation to the brain, slowly but surely leading to an increased risk of stroke. The best way to help keep your blood pressure in the healthy range is through regular, light exercise and a low-sodium diet.
The on-set signs of this medical condition can differ depending on the severity and person. However, typical signs of a stroke include sudden numbness in the face or extremities, lowered cognitive function (difficulty in comprehension, thinking or speaking), impaired vision and compromised motor skills (dizziness, trouble walking, general lack of coordination).
However, warning signs can also be more covert, such as a headache, nausea and general confusion. If you or someone close to you begins experiencing mild but strange symptoms such as these, it’s safest to visit the closest emergency room. The sooner a stroke is identified and cared for, the higher chance of survival with minimal permanent damage.
How to Help
The best way to help someone who has experienced a stroke is to only help them as much as they need. It’s best to let the person know that you’re happy to help wherever they need it without being overbearing. Be sure to encourage daily rehabilitation exercises to make the survivor’s recovery a self-made victory, if possible. Ultimately, the single best way to help anyone after an intensive medical crisis is through emotional support.
Similar to caring for stroke survivors, the best way to help the caretaker of the survivors is through emotional support. Ask what you can do to help alleviate any burden they may feel, or simply listen to what they have to say. Each case is different, and each person may need something different from their support system.
It’s never too early or too late to educate yourself about the risks, effects and symptoms of a stroke. For more information about American Stroke Awareness Month, visit www.stroke.org to learn more.