Did you know that approximately 3,300 of Erie County residents will be hospitalized for cerebrovascular disease this year, which includes strokes?
Today is World Stroke Day and the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, which is the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke, provides five tips to help Erie County residents to feel healthier and avoid one of the most common causes of disability and death.
Stroke is often thought of as something that happens to older people, but more people under 50 are having strokes, due to increased risky behaviors, such as smoking and untreated high blood pressure.
Strokes don’t discriminate. They can happen to anyone, at any age – and about one in four people worldwide will have one in their lifetime. In Erie County more than 3,300 people will be hospitalized for cerebrovascular disease this year, which includes strokes. The good news? Up to 80 percent of first strokes may be prevented.
While many adults don’t think they are at risk for stroke or reduced brain function, the reality is that nearly half of all adults in America have high blood pressure and untreated high blood pressure is one of the most common causes of stroke, yet they are preventable. “Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in New York State,” said Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “Talk to your health care provider about managing any chronic conditions you may have, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, and about quitting smoking. Those are major risk factors for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.”
One Buffalo resident who is dedicated to preventing stroke is Nina Harding, 26, of Clarence. She is a medical assistant, part-time biomedical student at the University at Buffalo and American Heart Association volunteer. By the age of 25, Harding had three strokes. “I didn’t know anything was wrong with me. I thought I was invincible. If I had paid better attention, I wouldn’t have waited so long to get evaluated.” That’s when a cardiologist discovered she had a PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale), where the clots were passing through and causing her strokes. Today, Harding has a 7-year-old son, is an active rider at Rebel Ride cycling studio and recently participated and spoke at the 2019 Buffalo CycleNation event. “Indoor cycling saved my life.” Cycling promotes both heart and brain health by strengthening the heart muscles, helping lower the resting pulse, and reducing cholesterol.
Here are five tips to reduce your risk of stroke and maintain mental sharpness as you age:
* Keep blood pressure in mind and under control. Get your blood pressure into a healthy range (under 130/80). High blood pressure is the no. 1 controllable risk factor for stroke. Work with your doctor to manage it.
* Eat colorful fruits and veggies. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower blood pressure over time, which can help reduce your stroke risk. Some fruits and vegetables are especially rich in vitamins and minerals that improve brain function and heart health – try mangoes, avocados and blueberries.
* Rest up. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night can improve brain function both today and long-term. Make it happen with a soothing bedtime routine and avoid screen time before bed. Sleep-related breathing issues may increase stroke risk, so seek treatment right away if you suspect sleep apnea or a similar problem.
* Meditate. Emerging science shows that practicing mindfulness and being aware of your breathing may significantly reduce blood pressure and may improve blood flow to the brain. A quick way to be mindful anytime is to pause, notice your breath and take in little details in your surroundings.
* Take a walk. Getting active activates brain cells, encouraging them to grow and connect more efficiently. For clear health benefits, adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of those activities). In addition, two days per week of moderate- to- high intensity muscle strengthening activity is recommended.
For more information, visit www.Stroke.org/WorldStrokeDay or email Michelle.Mason@heart.org.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved visit heart.org/buffalo. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About the American Stroke Association
The American Stroke Association is devoted to saving people from stroke — the No. 2 cause of death in the world and a leading cause of serious disability. Nationally, stroke is the No. 5 cause of death, while in Western New York, stroke is the No. 3 cause of death. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat stroke. The Dallas-based association officially launched in 1998 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit StrokeAssociation.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association receives funding mostly from individuals. Foundations and corporations donate as well, and fund specific programs and events. Strict policies are enforced to prevent these relationships from influencing the Association’s science content. Financial information for the American Heart Association, including a list of contributions from pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers, is available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.