May is Stroke Awareness Month – a time to encourage our patients to not only recognize the warning signs, but to know how at risk they truly are. According to the American Stroke Association (ASA), stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America, so it’s critical that we, as clinicians, are helping our patients lower their risk by identifying potential risk factors early on.
While risk factors vary person to person, common ones include family history, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. One of the most common, and honestly frustrating, misconceptions is that strokes can’t be prevented – when in fact, there are a number of diseases linked to stroke that CAN be treated through various lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise. In this post, I’d like to examine two of the most common risk factors for stroke – high blood pressure and high cholesterol – and offer suggestions on how we can reduce our patients’ risk.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
According to the National Stroke Association (NSA), an estimated 73 million Americans have high blood pressure. Often referred to as “the silent killer” high blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for stroke and in some cases, may not present any symptoms. Therefore, it’s critical that if there is a family history of high blood pressure or your patient has one of the other several risk factors, including age, gender and/or race, they receive routine blood pressure readings. While high blood pressure can be a life-threatening disease, it can be controlled through diet, exercise, tobacco cessation and/or medication.
The NSA states that high cholesterol may raise a person’s risk for stroke by increasing the risk of heart disease, a common stroke risk factor. Since high cholesterol doesn’t give off any symptoms, a blood test should be requested for all patients with one or more risk factors, including family history, age, and high blood pressure. Similar to high blood pressure, high cholesterol can be controlled through diet, exercise and/or medication. Since there are so many different factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease, I like to request that my patients have a VAP® + Lipid Panel – Atherotech’s comprehensive lipid test – as it uses a direct measurement of all lipid components to identify risk in three different categories, cholesterol-rich, triglyceride-rich and hereditary lipid defects. This allows me to create personalized and more effective treatment program based on a patient’s individual risk(s). In addition to the VAP® + Lipid Panel, Atherotech also offers the PLAC Test, the only blood test that measures the amount of Lp-PLA2 – a vascular-specific inflammatory marker in the formation of rupture-prone plaque – in the body. The higher the level of Lp-PLA2, the higher the risk for stroke. In honor of Stroke Awareness Month, the PLAC Test will donate $1 to the NSA each time information is “shared” from its Facebook Fan Page – check it out today and help raise funds for the NSA!
A recent study published in Stroke by the ASA and American Heart Association (AHA), stroke survivors should work to control their blood pressure, cholesterol and weight through diet and exercise. In addition to the recently updated guidelines by the AHA that outline specific weight management techniques, I think a great resource for patients is the organization’s 5 Goals to Losing Weight – an online resource that provides quick and easy tips for incorporating a healthy diet and exercise routine into daily life. For those that are unsure of their risk, the NSA also has several unique resources, including the ‘Stroke Risk Scorecard,’ which helps patients evaluate their risk based on a series of risk factors. Patients can complete the scorecard on their own and share with their doctors upon completion. This is a great and easy way to get your patients to consider their risk for stroke.
With 610,000 new stroke victims every year, it’s evident that further education is needed to reduce our patients’ risk. I hope you’ll join me in raising awareness of stroke not only during the month of May, but throughout the entire year. To help spread the work, I’ve included some posts for you to share on your various social media pages and encourage you to share them with your patients as well.
Did you know that stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America and a leading cause of adult disability? May is Stroke Awareness Month – a time to raise awareness and encourage people to know their risk for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Visit www.CobblesCorner.com to learn to learn about stroke prevention as well as ways to achieve and maintain a healthy heart.
Do you know your risk of having a stroke? Visit www.cobblescorner.com to learn how to prevent a stroke from happening to you.