Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in our country. And as your parent ages, with each decade his chances of having a stroke doubles. To help draw awareness to the dangers of strokes, each May is named “Strike Out Strokes” month to help inform the public about the risks, symptoms, and steps of preventing a stroke. The more you and your aging parent know about strokes will help you take steps now to prevent the occurrence of a stroke as well as know how to recognize when one is happening.
While some risk factors for your parent having a stroke cannot be mitigated (for example, women and African Americans are more likely to have a stroke), there are steps your parent can take to reduce his risk of having a stroke.
- Reduce blood pressure. Those with high blood pressure have a higher risk of having a stroke. If your parent takes medication to reduce his blood pressure, make sure he takes it as prescribed along with following through on other health care suggestions. You or your elder care provider can help by checking during each visit to make sure he’s taken his medication if it something he forgets often.
- Reduce cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a build of a plaque in the blood that can break off and cause a stroke. Getting the bad cholesterol levels reduced with help reduce your parent’s risk of stroke.
- Eliminate drinking and smoking. Both of these habits can increase the risk for stroke. If your parent struggles with addiction to either, help him find support groups to assist him in quitting. Sometimes having an accountability partner like yourself or his elder care provider can help as well.
- Keep physical. Help your parent stay active by finding activities he enjoys and will consistently do. He might like to be a part of a group that exercises together and provides socialization as well as exercise.
- Eat well. Eating plenty of fish, fresh fruits and vegetable while keeping saturated fats to a minimum, can help reduce the risk of a stroke developing. Look at that shopping list the next time your parent is heading out to the grocery store to make sure it’s full of healthy options.
While strokes can occur to anyone at any time, taking the right steps ahead of time will help reduce the risk of your parent developing a stroke. If you feel your parent is having a stroke, there is an easy test to see if what’s is occurring is a stroke. It’s called the FAST test. FAST is an acronym to help you remember what to look for when you or your elder care provider believe your parent may be having a stroke:
- F – Face. Ask your parent to smile. Does one side of his face droop?
- A – Arms. Ask your parent to lift his arms. Can he only raise one arm? Is one arm lower than the other?
- S – Speech. Ask your parent to repeat a simple phrase. Is he slurring his speech?
- T – Time. Time is of the essence. If you recognize any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
For every minute a stroke goes untreated and blood flow to the brain is blocked, a person’s speech, movement, memory can be more adversely affected. Learning this simple acronym could help you act more quickly.