October 29th is World Stroke Awareness Day. We may not be hearing as much about strokes as we once did, because in the United States the incidence of strokes is on the decline. Just under 800,000 people will have a stroke this year, and three-quarters of them will be over the age of 65. The reason the incidence in the United States is on the decline is because Americans are doing a better job of managing their blood pressure and because fewer of us smoke. Because so many of the stroke victims are older adults, it is important for caregivers to help their loved ones to further prevent stroke. With the proper preventive measures fully 80% of strokes could be prevented. Here are some suggestions for preventing strokes:
- Know your loved one’s blood pressure; this is a routine part of anyone’s annual physical, but you also can get a screening at health fairs or even your retail pharmacy using a machine;
- Know the signs of atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the heart rate goes so high that it fails to pump blood effectively which can lead to pooling and clot formation;
- Stop smoking – this is just one more very good reason to kick the habit if your loved one has not already done so as smoking doubles a person’s stroke risk;
- Monitor your loved one’s cholesterol intake and blood levels – any total cholesterol count above 200 is cause for concern;
- Manage blood glucose levels in your loved one if they are a diabetic – one of the complications of diabetes is poor circulation which can lead to stroke;
- Diet and exercise are part of almost every approach to better health – boost your loved one’s intake of fruits and vegetables (five portions a day) and reduce intake of trans-fats and salt;
- Manage alcohol intake – most doctors recommend limiting alcohol consumption to two or fewer drinks a day.
The good news about managing these risk factors is that not only will you as a caregiver be reducing your loved one’s risk of stroke, but you will be adding to their quality of life as well. In addition, you may find that these healthy habits also are contagious which can results in a healthier caregiver. Stroke prevention can become a win-win! For more information, I recommend checking out the web site for the National Stroke Association (http://www.stroke.org/site/PageNavigator/HOME).
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.