Wellness Wednesday: Controlling Risk and Thinking F.A.S.T. Can Help Prevent and Treat Stroke

May-stroke1May is American Stroke Awareness Month. It is very important for you to know that anyone can have a stroke. Strokes can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. In 2008 alone, more than 133,000 Americans—or one person every four minutes—died from stroke, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

There are many risk factors for stroke. Some risk factors, such as gender, ethnicity and age, are uncontrollable. But there are some risk factors that you can control.

Some controllable risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity and obesity
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Illegal drug use

Taking control is the first step to managing your risk.

  • Get moving. If you are healthy, participate in moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least 40 minutes per day, three to four times per week.
  • Watch your diet. Consider reducing sodium intake to <2300 mg/day and consider diets rich in fruits and vegetables such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or Mediterranean diets.
  • Know your numbers. Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels in check.
  • Know your family medical history. If high blood pressure and diabetes are common conditions, it’s important you ask your doctor what you can do to prevent them.
  • Drink moderately. Studies show a strong connection between alcohol and stroke so make sure to moderate your alcohol intake. No more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.
  • Stop Smoking. Smoking decreases your health in general, but smokers also have 2-4 times the risk for stroke compared to nonsmokers and those who have quit for more than 10 years.

Warning Signs

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Most people don’t know the warning signs of stroke or what to do when one happens. Stroke is an emergency. But acting quickly can tremendously reduce the impact of stroke.

A stroke is a brain attack that occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. Brain cells begin to die.

Recognizing stroke symptoms can be easy if you remember to think FAST:

F= Face  Drooping

Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A= Arm Weakness

Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S= 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.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T= Time to call 9-1-1

If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Source: American Stroke Association


More Information:

Let’s Talk About: Stroke, TIA and Warning Signs

Let’s Talk About: Hemorrhagic Stroke

Let’s Talk About: Risk Factors for Stroke

Let’s Talk About: High Blood Pressure and Stroke

Let’s Talk About: Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke

 

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Wellness Wednesday: The Truth About Holiday Spirits

How to Celebrate Safely This Season

We all want to celebrate during the holidays, and more people are likely to drink beyond their limits during this season than at other times of the year.

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Some of them will suffer consequences that range from fights to falls to traffic crashes. Sadly, we often put ourselves and others at risk because we don’t understand how alcohol affects us during an evening of celebratory drinking.

Myths Persist

Despite these potential dangers, myths persist that, for some, can prove fatal. Scientific studies supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provide important information that challenges these widespread, yet incorrect, beliefs about how quickly alcohol affects the body and how long the effects of drinking last.

Alcohol’s Effects Begin Quickly

Holiday revelers may not recognize that critical decision-making abilities and driving-related skills are already diminished long before a person shows physical signs of intoxication.

Initially, alcohol acts as a stimulant, and people who drink may feel upbeat and excited. But don’t be fooled. Alcohol soon affects inhibitions and judgment, and can lead to reckless decisions.

As we consume more alcohol, reaction time suffers and behavior becomes poorly controlled and sometimes even aggressive—leading to fights and other types of violence. Continued drinking causes the slurred speech and loss of balance that we typically associate with being drunk. At higher levels, alcohol acts as a depressant, which causes the drinker to become sleepy and in some cases pass out.

At these levels, alcohol can also cause blackouts or periods of amnesia where a person does not remember what happened while he or she was intoxicated. The intoxicated person actively engages in behaviors like walking and talking, but does not create memories for these or other events that occur during the blackout. In the most extreme cases, drinkers face the danger of life-threatening alcohol poisoning due to the suppression of vital life functions.

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Even When Drinking Stops—Alcohol’s Effects Do Not

During an evening of drinking, it’s also easy to misjudge how long alcohol’s effects last. For example, many people believe that they will begin to sober up—and drive safely—once they stop drinking and have a cup of coffee. The truth is that alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been finished. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream, impairing judgment and coordination for hours.

Before You Celebrate—Plan Ahead

Of course, we don’t intend to harm anyone when we celebrate during the holiday season. Yet violence and traffic fatalities persist and myths about drinking live on—even though scientific studies have documented how alcohol affects the brain and body. Because individuals are so different, it is difficult to give specific advice about drinking. But certain facts are clear—there’s no way to speed up the brain’s recovery from alcohol and no way to make good decisions when you are drinking too much, too fast.

So this holiday season, do not underestimate the effects of alcohol. Don’t believe you can beat them, or they may beat you.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you choose to drink:

  • Pace yourself. Know what constitutes a standard drink and have no more than one per hour.
  • Have “drink spacers”—make every other drink a nonalcoholic one.
  • Make plans to get home safely. Remember that a designated driver is someone who hasn’t had any alcohol, not simply the person in your group who drank the least.

For more information on celebrating your holidays safely and tips for cutting back, visit: www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health.

Download this article as a PDF.

 

Wellness Wednesday: Live Healthier and Lower Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Did you know that simply by living a healthier lifestyle, you could dramatically reduce the possibility of developing Type 2 diabetes?

iStock_000014865391_LargeIn fact, recent studies by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that by engaging in physical activity, eating a healthier diet, maintaining an appropriate body weight, limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking you can cut your risk of diabetes by as much as 80 percent.

November is American Diabetes Month and Mercy Health System would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to care for yourself, and your loved ones, by reminding you of the importance of preventive care.

NIH studies show that having a body weight appropriate for your height and age by itself reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 60 to 70 percent. Eating a healthier diet reduced the risk by about 15 percent and not smoking lowered the risk by about 20 percent.

Here are some tips from the NIH and the National Diabetes Education Program to help you make gradual lifestyle changes that can help you prevent Type 2 diabetes:

If you are overweight, set a weight loss goal you can meet (check in with your doctor before starting any weight loss plan).

  • Aim to lose about five to seven percent of your current weight and keep it off
  • Keep track of your daily food intake and physical activity in a logbook and review it daily
  • For support, invite family and friends to get involved

Make healthier food choices every day.

  • Keep healthier snacks, such as fruit and vegetables, at home and at work
  • Pack healthier lunches for you and your family
  • Choose low-fat diary products
  • Eat whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, brown rice, pasta or oatmeal
  • Select lean meats and poultry
  • Choose more fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds as protein sources

Strive to become more physically active. It’s easy to build physical activity into your day:

  • Take a brisk walk during lunchtime
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park farther away from your office
  • Join a community program like The YMCA as a family and choose activities that everyone can enjoy

Restrict alcohol consumption. Your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises with an increase in alcohol consumption – limit yourself to no more than one drink a day.

If you smoke, quit (and don’t quit quitting). Smokefree.gov offers some great tips and a step-by-step guide on how to begin.

Be sure to embrace a healthy spirit. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), high levels of stress can have negative effects on your blood sugar levels. That’s why it’s important to practice good relaxation techniques. The ADA recommends the following:

  • Breathing exercises: Sit or lie down and uncross your legs and arms. Take in a deep breath. Then push out as much air as you can then relax your muscles. Do these exercises for a minimum of five minutes at least once a day.
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones: If a negative thought is going through your mind, replace it with something that makes you happy or peaceful. You may also visualize a favorite nature scene to lessen anxiety and promote more serenity.

Last, but not least, getting annual physicals and tests from your doctor is key in sustaining your health and helping prevent diseases like diabetes. Having a Primary Care Physician (PCP) who can coordinate your care is vital to your good health. A PCP typically specializes in family medicine, internal medicine or general practice.

If you don’t have a PCP, finding one is easy! Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

To find a Mercy Health physician, visit www.mercyhealth.org and use our Find-A-Doctor tool.


More Information:

Taking Care of Type 2 Diabetes [PDF]

Wellness Wednesday: Making Healthy Choices Every Day

Changing habits can have a big positive impact on your health.

Be physically active.

Walking briskly, mowing the lawn, playing team sports, and biking are just a few examples of how you can get moving. If you are not already physically active, start small and work up to 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity for most days of the week.

Eat a healthy diet.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products are healthy choices. Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts are good, too. Try to eat foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.

Stay at a healthy weight.

Try to balance the calories you take in with the calories you burn with your physical activities. As you age, eat fewer calories and increase your physical activity. This will prevent gradual weight gain over time.

Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.

Current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that if you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, you do not exceed 2 drinks per day for men (1 drink per day for women). Some people should not drink alcoholic beverages at all, including

  • Individuals who cannot restrict their drinking to moderate levels.
  • Individuals who plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that requires attention, skill, or coordination.
  • Individuals taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • Individuals with specific medical conditions.
  • Persons recovering from alcoholism.

Don’t smoke.

For tips on how to quit, go to www.smokefree.gov. To talk to someone about how to quit, call the National Quitline: 1-800-QUITNOW (784-8669).

Take aspirin to avoid a heart attack.

If you are at risk for a heart attack (you’re over 45, smoke, or have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of heart disease), check with your doctor and find out if taking aspirin is the right choice for you.

Source: Stay Healthy. December 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/healthy-men/healthy/index.html

Wellness Wednesday: Finding the Balance between Happy Hour and Your Good Health

alcohol-05Many people have an occasional glass of wine with dinner or celebrate with a cocktail or a beer, but how much is too much?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States. April is Alcohol Awareness Month and Mercy Health System would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the importance of caring for yourself—body, mind and spirit.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that if you drink alcoholic beverages, do not exceed one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. According to the CDC, one alcoholic drink can be measured as 12 ounces of beer or cooler, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (rum, gin, vodka, etc.)

The guidelines recommend that those who fit into the following avoid alcoholic beverages:

  • Children and adolescents
  • People of any age who cannot limit their drinking to low level
  • Women who may become pregnant or who are pregnant
  • Those who plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination
  • People taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol
  • Persons recovering from alcoholism
  • Others as directed by their primary care physician (PCP)

If you feel like you need assistance in managing your drinking, or if you’re feeling stressed or depressed, your PCP can help coordinate your care and refer you to a specialist, if needed. If you don’t have a PCP, visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

To find a Mercy physician, go to www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.