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May 23, 2018 | Neurology • Value-Based Care
Strokes are the most common cause of adult disability. Each year, about 795,000 Americans have a stroke and 160,000 die each year from strokes. It ranks as the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
In addition to knowing how to prevent strokes, it’s also important to understand what strokes are and how to recognize one.
Blood brings oxygen to the brain, which is essential for the brain to survive and function properly. When blood circulation in the brain stops or slows, brain cells can die, resulting in a lack of oxygen. This is called a stroke.
About 80 percent of strokes are caused by blockage of a blood vessel in the brain or neck area, which is known as an ischemic stroke. Bleeding that occurs in or around the brain causes a type of stroke called hemorrhagic stroke.
Signs of a stroke include numbness in the face or other limbs, confusion or slurring of speech, dizziness and double vision. Symptoms can sometimes last only a few minutes before disappearing. These are known as transient ischemic attacks or “mini-strokes.” Though short, these strokes are serious and you should seek medical attention immediately if you experience one. These symptoms can help identify serious medical conditions.
Strokes can result in serious health limitations and in some cases, death. Stroke survivors often undergo expensive procedures which leads to expensive medical bills.
The cost of treating strokes can vary, depending on the type of stroke. A study published in 2011 gathered the average yearly cost for medication and outpatient stroke rehabilitation services. They collected expenses from 54 first-time stroke survivors and found that the average yearly cost of medication and outpatient stroke rehabilitation discharge was $17,081. The average lifetime cost per person is $103,576.
Understanding risk factors can help prevent strokes. Although some risk factors, such as age and family history, are uncontrollable, other risk factors are highly preventable. Preventable risk factors include:
If you have high cholesterol, test your cholesterol levels at least once every five years. Medicine and healthy lifestyle habits can help lower cholesterol, which can lower your risk for stroke. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium, and eat more foods high in fiber and unsaturated fats. Maintain a healthy weight and participate in physical activity daily. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels lowers your risk of stroke and heart disease.
Sleep apnea, often categorized by heavy snoring, is a potentially serious sleep disorder that affects breathing. This condition causes low oxygen levels and high blood pressure, which is associated with strokes. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, contact your doctor. Treating sleep apnea can reduce your risk of stroke.
Most people with high blood pressure do not experience any symptoms, so it’s important to check your blood pressure regularly. Lowering sodium intake, making lifestyle changes and taking prescribed medicine can help lower blood pressure.
If you have a heart conditions, like atrial fibrillation, it’s important to follow your doctor’s treatment advice—some conditions of the heart may require surgery or frequent medical treatment. Taking care of heart conditions properly can help prevent stroke.
Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body uses glucose (sugar) and can lead to serious complications, including nerve damage, kidney damage, heart disease, vision impairment, and others when left uncontrolled.
People with high glucose levels that have a stroke often experience more severe brain damage. A healthier diet and physical activity can help control your diabetes, which can prevent stroke.
You can also prevent strokes by making healthy lifestyle choices:
Start making healthy lifestyle choices now to prevent your likelihood of having a stroke. Talk to your doctor about any health concerns you may have and learn what you can do to be as healthy as possible.
“Lifetime Cost of a Stroke in the United States.” American Heart Association Journals.
“Preventing Stroke: Control Medical Conditions.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Preventing High Cholesterol.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Preventing Stroke: Healthy Living.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Cost Associated with Stroke: Outpatient Rehabilitative Services and Medication.” U.S. National Library of Medicine.
“Brain Basics: Preventing Stroke.” National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke.
“Untreated Sleep Apnea and Stroke.” American Sleep Apnea Association.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.