Stroke risks and prevention for seniors – San Bernardino Sun

By Dr. Nima Ramezan-Arab,

Contributing writer

Dr. Nima Ramezan-Arab. (Photo courtesy of MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center)

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the world.

As you age, the higher your chances of having a stroke become, almost doubling every 10 years after age 55. About 66% of hospitalized stroke cases are people older than 65. For people who are at least 80 years old, atrial fibrillation can be the direct cause for a stroke. AFib, in fact, causes about one in seven strokes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

AFib can increase the chance of a blood clot forming in the heart, which can travel to the brain — leading to a stroke. It has a five-fold increased risk of stroke and those with AFib have an increased risk of death if they have a stroke.

Unfortunately, there aren’t warning signs that you can catch over time when it comes to stroke. Rather, there are signs that occur right away. Many seniors report these signs and symptoms right before or during a stroke:

  • Numbness in the face and limbs.
  • Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes.
  • Severe headaches.
  • Difficulty with communication.
  • Lack of coordination.

If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Acting fast is critical when a stroke hits. And if you have AFib, it’s extremely important to act quickly.

You can also try to prevent a stroke from AFib by speaking with your doctor to see how you can manage it and lower your risk.

Some additional ways you can help lower your risk of a stroke as you get older, even if you don’t have AFib, are:

  • Exercising regularly.
  • Monitoring your weight.
  • Eating healthy.
  • Alcohol and nicotine should be avoided, since they directly affect the brain and nervous system.
  • Control high blood pressure.
  • Control your cholesterol levels.

While no one plans to have a stroke and even if you happen to take all the precautions to prevent a stroke, sometimes a stroke does happen. If you or a loved one happen to experience a stroke, it’s important to be fast.

There is actually a phrase that is used to describe the emergent nature of a stroke: “Time lost is brain lost. Every minute counts.” It essentially means the longer you wait to treat a stroke, the more damage is done. A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked by a blood clot in a brain artery or because a brain vessel has burst. As time progresses, so does the stroke and irreversible brain damage can happen.

A great way to remember the signs of a stroke and acting quickly is the acronym: B.E. F.A.S.T.

Here’s what that means:

  • B: Balance – sudden loss of balance and coordination.
  • E: Eyes – sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision.
  • F: Face drooping – face drooping on one side or numbness.
  • A: Arm or leg weakness – numbness, especially on one side of the body.
  • S: Speech difficulty – sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech.
  • T: Time – stroke is a medical emergency, call 911 immediately and note the time of the first symptom.

Using B.E. F.A.S.T. can help save your or a loved one’s life.

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