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Stroke Prevention

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Kristin: Good Morning, this is your Wellness Wake Up Call with Kristin Bogdonas, nutrition and wellness educator for University of Illinois Extension, serving Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, and Stark Counties. Joining me today is Lisa Duberowski, Master of Public Health intern from St. Ambrose University.

Lisa: Good morning, Kristin, and thanks for having me on.

Kristin: I know you have an interest in stroke prevention and since it’s Stroke Awareness Month, I’d love for you to share some information on how our listeners can reduce their risk of stroke. I know it’s imperative to act fast if you or someone you know is experiencing a stroke. Can you also tell us the signs to look out for and how best to respond?

Lisa: Absolutely! You may have heard of the acronym FAST or F-A-S-T. It stands for Face, Arms, Speech, and Time. If you think someone may be having a stroke, ask these questions:

  • Does one side of the face droop when smiling?
  • Does one arm drift downward when both arms are raised?
  • Does speech sound strange or slurred?
  • If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away. 

Kristin: That’s a helpful acronym to remember. I’ve heard that it’s important to call 9-1-1 instead of using personal transportation to get to the hospital after a stroke. What is the reasoning behind this recommendation?

Lisa: Calling 9-1-1 is recommended over personal transportation to the E.R. for a couple of reasons. One reason is that ambulance personnel can communicate with hospital staff before arriving at the E.R, so they can share important information that may allow hospital staff to administer treatments more quickly upon arrival. This is particularly important since some treatments can only be given during the first three hours after a stroke. Another reason is that ambulance personnel know which hospitals are best equipped to treat strokes.

Kristin: Thank you for sharing that information! Acting fast and seeking treatment right away often means less disability in the months to come during the recovery stage. So what can we do to prevent this from happening in the first place? I know there’s overlap between preventing stroke and heart disease. What can people do day-to-day to reduce their risk?

Lisa: That’s right, heart disease and stroke have many of the same risk factors. Some of the main risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, a lack of physical activity, unhealthy diets, and smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.

One of the most important things we can do is to get regular check-ups with our health care provider. This helps detect and manage these conditions, and it helps us get connected with other specialists who might help with diet, exercise, and quitting tobacco.

Kristin: You mentioned that unhealthy diets and physical inactivity can increase stroke risk. How much exercise should we be getting to reduce our risk of stroke? And are there specific foods we should be eating and also avoiding?

Lisa: So, think about the types of activity you enjoy, whether that’s walking, gardening or biking- and do it more often. Aim for 2.5 hours each week, and remember to move more and sit less. And as always, talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise programs.

When it comes to diet, try to reduce highly processed foods which can be high in saturated fats, sodium, and sugars. See if you can eat more of a plant-based diet which includes things like beans, nuts, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. And for specific dietary needs or concerns, talk to a registered dietician.

Kristin: Lisa, thank you for sharing these tips with us today! As with many other conditions, being active, eating well, avoiding tobacco, and working with your doctor to manage medical conditions can lower your risk of stroke. If you notice any signs of a stroke, remember to act F.A.S.T. and improve your chances of survival and recovery.

This has been Kristin Bogdonas, nutrition & wellness educator for University of Illinois Extension, serving Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, and Stark Counties.

Wellness Wake Up Call is produced by WVIK in partnership with University of Illinois Extension, and sponsored by The Planning Center in Moline, assisting men and women with financial wellness and preparation for life's transitions, including retirement planning, college savings, marital changes, and estate planning.

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Kristin Bogdonas believes that everyone deserves access to fresh, affordable food and is committed to helping people improve their health literacy. In this digital age it can be difficult to decipher what nutrition information is accurate and what is hype. Connecting people with factual information and evidenced-based programs will help people build the skills and attain the knowledge necessary for positive behavior change. Although nutrition is important for a long and healthy life, one should not overlook the other dimensions of health required for overall wellbeing; physical, mental, emotional, vocational, spiritual, environmental and social. Each dimension impacting the next.