Wellness Wednesday: Thinking F.A.S.T. can help save lives

Do you know how to recognize a stroke? Do you know what steps to take if someone is having a stroke? Thinking F.A.S.T. can help save lives and improve stroke recovery.

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.

Warning Signs

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.

Risk Factors

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.iStock_000042882876_Medium

  • 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 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.

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

Wellness Wednesday: Hypertension, The Silent Killer

High blood pressure or hypertension is a symptomless “silent killer” that quietly damages blood vessels and leads to serious health threats.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. It is recorded as two numbers and a written as a ratio.
normal blood pressure digital monitor

  • Systolic: The top number in the ratio, which is also the higher of the two, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.
  • Diastolic: The bottom number in the ratio, which is also the lower of the two, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

In order to survive and function properly, your tissues and organs need the oxygenated blood that your circulatory system carries throughout the body. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of arteries, veins and capillaries. This pressure—blood pressure—is the result of two forces: it rises with the first force (systolic) as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries. And it falls during the second force (diastolic) when the heart relaxes between beats.

What is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?

Blood Pressure InfographicHypertension occurs when your blood pressure is consistently too high. High blood pressure (HBP) causes harm by increasing the workload of the heart and blood vessels—making them work harder and less efficiently.

Normal blood pressure for adults is defined as a systolic pressure below 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mmHg. It is normal for blood pressures to change when you sleep, wake up, or are excited or nervous. When you are active, it is normal for your blood pressure to increase. However, once the activity stops, your blood pressure returns to your normal baseline range. Blood pressure also normally rises with age and body size.

Stages of High Blood Pressure in Adults

This chart is a guide for healthy adults. People with diabetes or chronic kidney disease should keep their blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg.

Stages

Systolic
(top number)

 

Diastolic
(bottom number)

Prehypertension

120–139

OR

80–89

High blood pressure Stage 1

140–159 OR

90–99

High blood pressure Stage 2

160 or higher

OR

100 or higher

You may not feel that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure could be quietly causing damage that can threaten your health. The best prevention is knowing your numbers and making changes that matter in order to prevent and manage high blood pressure.


About 85 million Americans (one out of every three adults over age 20) have high blood pressure. And nearly 20 percent don’t even know they have it.


How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Your Health?

siluet_mochevojOver time, the force and friction of high blood pressure damages the tissues inside the arteries. In turn, LDL (bad) cholesterol forms plaque along tiny tears in the artery walls, signifying the start of atherosclerosis.

The more the plaque increases, the narrower the insides of the arteries become—raising blood pressure and starting a vicious circle that further harms your arteries, heart and the rest of your body. This can ultimately lead to other conditions ranging from arrhythmia to heart attack and stroke. It can also lead to kidney disease as well as blindness.

Hypertension and Stroke

High blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke because it’s the Number 1 cause of stroke.

Similar to a heart attack, most strokes occur when blood vessels in the brain narrow or become clogged, cutting off blood flow to brain cells. This type (ischemic) represents about 87% of all strokes. High blood pressure causes damage to the inner lining of the blood vessels. So this adds to any blockage that is already within the artery wall.

The remaining 13% of strokes occur when a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain (hemorrhagic). Chronic high blood pressure or aging blood vessels are the main causes of this type of stroke. The force of HBP puts more pressure on the blood vessels until they eventually rupture over time.

Causes of Hypertension

A number of factors and variables can put you at a greater risk for developing hypertension. Understanding these risk factors can help you be more aware of how likely you are to develop high blood pressure.

Common hereditary and physical risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  • Family history: If your parents or other close blood relatives have high blood pressure, there’s an increased chance that you’ll get it, too.
  • Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to get high blood pressure. As we age, our blood vessels gradually lose some of their elastic quality, which can contribute to increased blood pressure.
  • Gender: Until age 45, men are more likely to get high blood pressure than women are. From age 45 to 64, men and women get high blood pressure at similar rates. And at 65 and older, women are more likely to get high blood pressure.
  • Race: African-Americans tend to develop high blood pressure more often than people of any other racial background in the United States.

Lifestyle risk factors include:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • An unhealthy diet, especially one high in sodium
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking too much alcohol

What can you do to prevent or lower high blood pressure?

Eat Less SaltMaintain an active lifestyle and exercise at least 30 minutes each day. Get plenty of rest and eat a healthy, low-sodium, high-potassium diet. These are the best ways to affect your blood pressure. When these don’t work, your doctor may prescribe certain medications, such as a diuretic or beta blocker, to help lower your blood pressure.

Talk with your doctor about blood pressure and the risk of heart disease or stroke. If you would like to find a Mercy physician, visit our Find-A-Doctor tool on our website at: www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.

Sources: National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association


Before you go … check out Mercy Health System’s 2017 Go Red Dance Video to support American Heart Month!


More Information:

What Is High Blood Pressure? [PDF]

High Blood Pressure and Stroke [PDF]

Why Should I Limit Sodium? [PDF]

What Can I Do To Improve My Blood Pressure? [PDF]

Blood Pressure Log [PDF]

Sodium Tracker [PDF]

High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator

Mercy Health Library: High Blood Pressure

Mercy Health Library: Stroke

Wellness Wednesday: Keeping Your Cholesterol in Check

SeniorsSeptember is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high. More than 102 million American Adults have total cholesterol levels above healthy levels (at or above 200 mg/dL). More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and in many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Not all cholesterol is bad. Cholesterol is just one of the many substances created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy.

Total cholesterol is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood and is based on the HDL, LDL and triglycerides numbers.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

HDL cholesterol absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. HDL is known as “good” cholesterol because having high levels can reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke. Low HDL cholesterol puts you at higher risk for heart disease. People with high blood triglycerides usually also have lower HDL cholesterol. Genetic factors, type 2 diabetes, smoking, being overweight and being sedentary can all result in lower HDL cholesterol.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

LDL cholesterol makes up the majority of the body’s cholesterol. LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because having high levels can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease and stroke. However, your LDL number should no longer be the main factor in guiding treatment to prevent heart attack and stroke, according to new guidelines from the American Heart Association. For patients taking statins, the guidelines say they no longer need to get LDL cholesterol levels down to a specific target number. A diet high in saturated and trans fats raises LDL cholesterol.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood that your body uses for energy. Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls that increases the risk for heart attack and stroke

How do you know if your cholesterol is high?

cholesterolHigh cholesterol usually doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. However, doctors can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol. High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or if it is not enough, through medications.

It’s important to check your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.

Preventive guidelines for cholesterol screening among young adults differ, but experts agree on the need to screen young adults who have other risk factors for coronary heart disease: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and family history

Conditions That Increase Risk for High Cholesterol

Diabetes mellitus increases the risk for high cholesterol. Your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps move glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cells. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. So this causes sugars to build up in the blood.

Behaviors That Increase Your Risk for High Cholesterol

Unhealthy Diet: Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to high cholesterol and related conditions, such as heart disease.

Physical Inactivity: Not getting enough physical activity can make you gain weight, which can lead to high cholesterol.

Obesity: Obesity is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher triglycerides and higher LDL cholesterol, and lower HDL cholesterol. In addition to high cholesterol, obesity can also lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Talk to your health care team about a plan to reduce your weight to a healthy level.

Family History Can Increase Risk for High Cholesterol

Portrait Of Extended Family Group In ParkWhen members of a family pass traits from one generation to another through genes, that process is called heredity.

Genetic factors likely play some role in high cholesterol, heart disease and other related conditions. However, it is also likely that people with a family history of high cholesterol share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you are more likely to have high cholesterol. You may need to get your cholesterol levels checked more often than people who do not have a family history of high cholesterol.

The risk for high cholesterol can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as eating an unhealthy diet.

Some people have an inherited genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia. This condition causes very high LDL cholesterol levels beginning at a young age.

If you have high cholesterol, what can you do to lower it?

Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol. In addition, you can lower your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes:

  • Low-fat and high-fiber food (Eat more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains).
  • For adults, getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. For those aged 6-17, getting 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke or quit if you smoke.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association


More Information:

Know the Facts About High Cholesterol [CDC Fact Sheet]

American Heart Association’s Cholesterol SmartHub

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

iStock_000042882876_Medium

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

 

Wellness Wednesday: Walk Your Way to a Healthy Heart

OAM2015A nice, brisk walk can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running, according to a new study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkley, Calif. All three conditions are risk factors for heart disease and stroke — and you can do something about them.

Researchers analyzed 33,060 runners in the National Runners’ Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study. They found that the same energy used for moderate- intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and possibly coronary heart disease over the study’s six years. Read more about the study highlights.

The more people walked or ran each week, the more their health benefits increased.

The findings are consistent with the American Heart Association’s recommendations that adults should get 30 minutes of physical activity per day, at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week to derive benefits.

Just start walking

NWAL2016-DYK2You don’t have to set a marathon pace or walk for miles. You can start slow and start small. Maybe you start by walking around the block twice each night. You can work toward your overall goal of 30 minutes a day by increasing your time as you get in better shape. And if you’re busy—like most of us—you can split up your walks into 10-15 minutes each.

Have a dog? He’d be more than happy to join you for a walk. So maybe you take Fido on a 15-minute walk in the morning and one in the evening. (You could probably ‘try’ this with a cat too … though I wouldn’t recommend it.) You could also tap a friend of the human persuasion who can be your walking buddy. Pretty soon, you’ll be talking and walking and not even realize you’ve been ‘exercising’ for 30 minutes.

Too hot or too cold outside? Bad weather? Go to the mall. Take a couple of laps around each level of the mall. Then maybe afterwards you can treat yourself to that new pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing!

All you have to do is lace up with a good pair of sneakers—and walk. It’s that easy. It’s also safe. And it’s the least expensive form of exercise (new shoes purchase notwithstanding); and it has the lowest dropout rate of any type of exercise.

Before you know it, brisk walking can become a part of your daily routine. And you’ll reap plenty of benefits.