Do You Know the F.A.S.T. Facts About Stroke?
Do You Know the F.A.S.T. Facts?
You should! Knowing how to recognize a stroke could save your life or the life of someone you care about. When it comes to stroke, spotting it FAST[i] may make the difference between life and death — or the difference between a full recovery and long-term disability.
F.A.S.T. stands for:
- Face Drooping
- Arm Weakness
- Speech Difficulties
- Time (to call 911)
Why am I focusing on stroke this month? First, because May is American Stroke Awareness Month[ii]. Secondly, May is also National High Blood Pressure Education Month[iii] (and, by the way, high blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes). Finally, up to 80% of strokes can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes.
The American Heart Association recommends 5 critical ways[iv] to prevent stroke. For those of us over the age of 50, the four below are most important:
- Quit smoking. Studies show that for every 5 cigarettes a person smokes/day, the risk of having a stroke increases by 12%. For Black adults, smoking more than doubles the risk of stroke compared to never smoking.
- Move more. Adults who are more active have a 25%-30% lower risk of stroke than those who are least active.
- Control your blood pressure (BP).The BP levels of more than 50% of men and43% of women in the U.S. are too high. Normal BP is below 120/80 mm Hg. High BP is 130 systolic or higher, or 80 diastolic or higher, that stays high over time. High BP adds to your heart’s workload and damages your arteries and organs over time.
- Eat a healthy diet. According to Dr. David Spence, Director of the Stroke Prevention & Atherosclerosis Research Centre at Western University, “…of the factors that increase the risk of stroke, the worst is diet: only ~0.1% of Americans consume a healthy diet, and only 8.3% consume a somewhat healthy diet.”
Foods that Prevent Stroke
Overwhelming research shows that following a Mediterranean diet reduces stroke risk. A 2013 review[v] of 22 studies showed that high adherence to a Mediterranean diet reduced risk of a stroke by almost 30%. A 2019 review[vi] of 25 studies similarly concluded, “A high adherence to the Mediterranean diet is inversely associated with stroke risk, and can modify the costs of its management, therefore the prevention policies should implement adherence to this healthy diet.”
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[i] Recognizing stroke f.a.s.t.: Face Arms Speech Time
[ii] American Stroke Month 2021 | American Heart Association
[iii] May is High Blood Pressure Education Month | NHLBI, NIH
[iv] 5 critical steps to help prevent a stroke | American Heart Association
[v] Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis - PubMed (nih.gov)