Stroke Prevention:  Put a Little Love in Your Health Care 

By Meta J. Mereday


According to the National Stroke Association, a stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States following cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Unfortunately, almost half of the people who are stricken with strokes, which is an attack of the brain, have no symptoms prior to the attack.

In other cases, the warning signs for a stroke include sudden unexplained numbness or tingling sensation, blurred vision, slurred speech and clumsiness.  Thus, stroke prevention is crucial to healthy living as almost 80 percent of strokes are preventable.

Researchers have found that men, African Americans and people with a family history of strokes are more at risk for having a stroke.

Lifestyle choices, including smoking cigarettes, and excessive eating and drinking can also lead to strokes.

High blood pressure and diabetes can also increase the risk of a stroke.  

The keys to stroke prevention begin with a new focus on better living and changing bad habits. 

It is time to love your body.  The National Stroke Association provides tips in its “Stroke Prevention Guidelines” that include eating a low salt diet, adding exercise to your daily routine, quitting smoking, and monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure.

Regarding high blood pressure and the prevalence of strokes among African Americans, a research study at the Medical College of Georgia found that a natural mechanism that regulates blood pressure is missing in many African Americans, making them more susceptible to high blood pressure, a leading cause of strokes. 

Stress increases blood pressure and this built in mechanism brings down blood pressure.

Unfortunately, the research showed that the mechanism did work properly in one out of the three African Americans in the study. 

According to the American Stroke Association, African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever strokes compared to Whites.  Furthermore, African American women have a higher prevalence for high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes than White women.

Now is the time to put the love back into your health care and address the importance of stroke prevention in the African American community. 

The experts agree on the factors that can contribute to that “love my body” model. Regular medical check-ups are important, especially to monitor high blood pressure and/or cholesterol. 

Go lean on the salt intake and “perk up” your body by increasing the fruit and vegetables in your diet.  For example, food high in fiber helps to lower cholesterol in addition to fruits and vegetables that would include oatmeal, whole grain breads, dried beans and peas.

Think thin by increasing your daily exercise routine and reducing stress factors in your life. 

By thinking of ways to increase your physical activity, you are also creating more body loving and spirit enriching experiences.

Taking walks in a park and using the stairs instead of elevators adds to your exercise regimen and provides a mental health break.  In addition, if you work at a computer take a break every 10 minutes to stretch or get a drink of water and also listening to music while doing housework or any physical activity will provide another positive reinforcement. And, if it has been a while since you have been physically active, see your doctor for a check-up before you start an exercise program.

Quitting smoking, or never taking on this addiction, is a major move in putting the love into your health care and highlighting stroke prevention.

When a smoker quits they have reduced the risk of blood clot formation that leads to strokes and decreased the damage to blood vessels that leads to higher blood pressure rates. Smoking cessation efforts should also be monitored by a professional who can recommend healthy alternatives.

Stroke prevention is more than a life changer, but a life saver. There are simple models that can be followed that can make a big difference to address a disease that is highly prevalent in the African American community, but more important, highly preventable.

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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