Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Men’s Health Concern #5: Stroke

Though stroke is in the top 7 for men, it is a higher risk for women. The reason is that women live longer and stroke risk gets higher with age. Women live longer. We know that, but reviewing the health risks for men and our standard operating procedure of health care, it makes sense. We should change that. But as far as stroke, we need to know how to prevent it and know when it occurs and how to react.

A stroke, sometimes called a "brain attack," occurs when blood flow to an area in the brain is cut off. The brain cells, deprived of the oxygen and glucose needed to survive, die. If not caught early, permanent brain damage and death can result.

The most common symptoms of a stroke are:
  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body
  • Loss of vision or dimming (like a curtain falling) in one or both eyes
  • Loss of speech, difficulty talking, or understanding what others are saying
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
  • Loss of balance or unstable walking, usually combined with another symptom
These can be remembered with the F.A.S.T. acronym as seen in the graphic here.

The good news is that stroke is preventable. There are some risk factors that cannot be controlled such as age, but there are controllable risk factors that play major roles that can be addressed including:
  • High blood pressure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Being overweight
  • Existing carotid and/or coronary artery disease
Four of those are directly inter-related: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and being overweight all pertain to general health and nutrition. Eating properly and being a proper weight can reduce the risk of all of those and in turn the risk of stroke. You could easily include coronary artery disease in there as diet has a huge effect on that. Smoking and drinking we do have control over as much or more than diet. Finally, atrial fibrillation can be caused by lung disease (smoking), excessive alcohol consumption, and hypertension or heart disease (there's that weight and diet thing again).

If you have been paying attention to Men's Health Week and the top health concerns, you are probably seeing a theme of wellness - don't smoke,  moderation in alcohol consumption, and watch your weight. If you follow those three you can reduce the risk of stroke and really all of the health concerns.