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October 29th is World Stroke Day.

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 Nebraska, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death. The good news? Up to 80 percent of first strokes may be prevented.

“Healthy habits can protect and improve brain function and lower your stroke risk. These simple suggestions are great for everyone to follow, even if you don’t think you’re likely to have a stroke,” says Beth Malina, BSN, RN, CNRN and Director of Quality and System Improvement for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. “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 and also causes up to 60 percent of dementia.”

Here are five tips to reduce your risk of stroke and maintain mental sharpness as you age:

Keep blood pressure 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, which can help reduce your stroke risk.

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.

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.
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.

Most strokes are largely treatable. Recognize the warning signs and call 9-1-1 immediately. This can make the difference between a strong recovery and disability or even death.

It’s easy to remember the most common stroke warning signs – F.A.S.T.

  • Face – Drooping or facial numbness. Ask them to smile. Is their smile uneven?
  • Arm – Arm weakness or numbness. Ask them to raise both arms. Does one drift downward?
  • Speech – Slurred speech. Are they unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask them to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.”
  • Time – Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital immediately if someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away. Note the time when the first symptoms appeared.

Stroke is a medical emergency. For the best chance of recovery, call 9-1-1 for help. Medical treatment may start in the ambulance.

Kearney Regional Medical Center is a Health Care Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) certified Stroke Center and has met or exceeded all standards for stroke program accreditation:

– Program director has extensive experience in acute stroke care
– Stroke code team arrival at bedside within 15 minutes
– Lab testing and advanced imaging capabilities available 24/7
– Access to neurologists 24/7
– Neurosurgical expertise available, or able to transfer patients within two hours
– Designated stroke unit on-site

Learn More

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