BY MICHELLE SMITH
With June being stroke awareness month, let’s go through some facts that will help us change our lifestyle to prevent the incidence of stroke. I say we, because high blood pressure runs in my family leaving me with no option but to monitor this factor closely. Undiagnosed high blood pressure or high blood pressure that is not monitored appropriately can be your risk for having a stroke. It is estimated that 1.6 million Canadians are living with heart disease or the effects of a stroke and six million Canadian adults, or one in five, have high blood pressure as cited by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or reduced. This deprives your brain of oxygen and nutrients, which can cause your brain cells to die.
A stroke may be caused by a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Some people may experience only a temporary disruption of blood flow to their brain (transient ischemic attack, or TIA). Stroke is a leading cause of death and severe, long-term disability. This should be no surprise with the increase of alternative medicine, wellness, fitness coaches and products offering the optimal choice of changing your life expectancy. It is slick marketing, relaxed regulations and scientific illiteracy, claiming the failures of mainstream medicine? The most common narrative that I hear when individuals are looking for answers is that they turn to alternative medicine because mainstream medicine has failed them. But not everyone can afford alternative medicine or personal trainers, so let’s put you at an advantage by increasing your health care literacy.
As your health care advocate, I can’t explain how important it is to be literate about your health. If you find yourself with a chronic illness such as diabetes, cholesterol, and/or high blood pressure your risk for stroke increases as well. In order to create awareness and make the necessary changes we can’t ignore the fact that there are some risk factors that we can’t change such as age, gender, race or family history. So what will you do with this information? Generally, as you age this puts you at risk for health complications, however poor or good lifestyle options can change this factor along with the right knowledge. It has been stated that women are more likely to suffer from strokes than men. Is this factor true? This is cited by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Whether you are a man or woman, being aware of the signs or symptoms that your body is giving you, will be your best defence in seeking professional help. I am a firm believer in utilizing the free healthcare system in place to investigate your concerns first before using alternative choices. If you are not sure about what to do next, as your advocate I am available to help you navigate the health care system with ease.
With my fifteen years of experience in nursing I have found that one’s ethnicity does play a role in the increased incidence of chronic illness. Afro-Caribbean, South East Asians and Hispanics have been cited to be at a greater risk than Caucasians for certain chronic illnesses and this is partly because these races have a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
In light of this information regarding strokes, you should also remember that if you have an elderly person in your life that has high blood pressure, diabetes or cholesterol remind them to check their blood pressure routinely at a local drug store or through their doctor. Also remind them to write down and know their blood pressure readings. This is a very important step in keeping track of your blood pressure. If you or someone you know has diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar routinely at home by ensuring that you have an accurate glucose monitor will be the best way that you can make choices for your treatment. Always remember to understand the medical or preventative measures that is relevant to keeping you at your best, because lack of knowledge is the worst disease.