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Top Tips to Avoid a Stroke: March 12, 2012

Al Palmer suffered a massive stroke as a young man.

“I was totally paralyzed on the left side; I regained 95% of my movement back.”

He didn’t know then what he knows now, that a personal habit may have been a contributing factor.

“First of all I was smoking. Then once you have the stroke, you quite smoking. It’s a drastic change,” says Palmer.

Stroke is the fourth leading killer in this country. It happens when blood flow to the brain becomes blocked, either by a blood clot or a burst blood vessel.

“A lot of studies look at identification of risk factors at the time of stroke, I think at least a third to 40% of the disease we recognize,” says Dr. Ross Levine, Medical Director of Vascular Neurology for Lee Memorial Health System.

Three things, smoking, blood pressure and cholesterol, are major risk factors that people can impact with changes in behavior.

Smoking has long been linked to stroke. Kicking the habit is one way to reduce your risk. Another factor is high blood pressure.

“People in their fifties with high blood pressure, their risk of heart attack and stroke is four times the same person that doesn’t have high blood pressure,” says Dr. Levine.

Taking steps to lower blood pressure can also reduce stroke risk, likewise with high cholesterol.

“Blockages, high cholesterol, plaquing of arteries, high blood pressure. They kind of go hand in hand in a lot of ways,” says Dr. Levine.

A good first step is talking to your doctor and making necessary changes. Something Al Palmer learned the hard way.

“There’s a lot of things that cause changes in your life and I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve only had one stroke.”