Do you know that as Africans/African-Americans we are twice at risk for first-time stroke than Caucasians? What is more alarming is that in its report of national data, the American Heart Association found that blacks have higher death rates for stroke compared to whites and the prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans in the United States is the highest in the world.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke or “brain attack” is a sudden interruption in the blood supply to the brain. Strokes are usually caused by an abrupt blockage of arteries leading to the brain. Other strokes are caused by bleeding in the brain when a blood vessel bursts. The two main types of stroke are ischemic (is-KEM-ik) and hemorrhagic (hem-o-RAJ-ik). Clots that block an artery cause ischemic strokes. Ischemic stroke is the most common type, representing almost 90 percent of all strokes. Hemorrhagic, or bleeding, strokes are caused by burst blood vessels in the brain.
Knowing who is most likely to have a stroke, how to reduce the chances of having one and recognizing the symptoms can save a precious life.
Stroke Age and Gender
According to the New York Times, people most at risk for stroke are older adults, particularly those with high blood pressure, who are sedentary (inactive), overweight, smoke, or have diabetes. Older age is also linked with higher rates of post-stroke dementia. Younger people are not immune, however. About 28% of stroke victims are under age 65. In most age groups except older adults, stroke is more common in men than in women. However, it kills more women than men, regardless of ethnic groups. Women account for about 6 in 10 stroke deaths.
Reducing Stroke Risk
Too much salt (sodium) and saturated fats (found in animal fats such as red meat, cheese and butter) increase the risk of stroke, while a diet rich in fruit and vegetables (which contain antioxidants to help protect the blood vessels against atherosclerosis), unsaturated fats (found in nuts, seeds and oily fish) and fiber can help lower the risk.
It has been estimated that consuming one to two servings more of fruit and vegetables a day can reduce the risk of stroke by up to 40 percent.
Stick to safe alcohol limits. That’s no more than two to three units a day for women and no more than three to four units a day for men. A unit equals half a pint of ordinary strength beer, a small glass of wine.
Tobacco use is a major preventable risk factor for stroke and heart disease. Even if you have smoked for years, you can still reduce your risk by quitting now.
A sedentary lifestyle void of regular exercise can contribute to heart disease which may lead to stroke.
Signs of Stroke
*Sudden numbness or weakness of the 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
If you experience these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
By making ourselves more aware of the stroke prevalence and spreading the word to our loved ones, we can prevent a stroke before it happens. For more information on stroke, talk to your doctor or visit the related links below: