Rena, aged 81 was widowed recently and lives a semi active life as she suffers from borderline heart and kidney failure. Early one morning, she telephoned a neighbor, requesting she come over immediately. Within five minutes the neighbor, an active volunteer in the national stroke NGO, heard how Rena was suddenly unable to hold her coffee cup. A quick examination of seeing one hand drop when asked to lift both and the drooping of one side of her mouth were sufficient to immediately call an ambulance.
The paramedic repeated the examination, after which he called the “trauma room”, which is equipped to diagnose all emergency patients received at the largest hospital in the city. Within three and a half hours of her original call, she was receiving the tPA treatment. Two days later she was discharged and has not suffered any after effects. When asked how come she knew to react immediately to the weakness in her arm, she said she always remembers the signs of a stroke from the FAST magnet on her refrigerator, a gift from her neighbor.
High blood pressure (hypertension) can quietly damage the body for years before symptoms develop. If left uncontrolled, it can lead to disability, poor quality of life or even a heart attack. Roughly half the people with untreated hypertension die of heart disease related to poor blood flow (ischemic heart disease) and another third die of stroke.
High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for stroke. High blood pressure adds to your heart’s workload and damages your arteries and organs over time. Compared to people whose blood pressure is normal, people with high blood pressure are more likely to have a stroke.
About 87 percent of strokes are caused by narrowed or clogged blood vessels in the brain that cut off the blood flow to brain cells. This is an ischemic stroke. High blood pressure causes damage to the inner lining of the blood vessels. This adds to any blockage that is already within the artery wall. About 13 percent of strokes occur when a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain. This is a hemorrhagic stroke. Chronic high blood pressure or aging blood vessels are the main causes of this type of stroke. High blood pressure puts more pressure on the blood vessels until they can no longer maintain the pressure and the blood vessel ruptures over time.
People with a family history of high blood pressure, as well as people 35 years or older, overweight or obese, who eat too much salt, or drink too much alcohol; women who use birth control pills or are pregnant, as well as people who are not physically active are ALL at risk of high blood pressure, and subsequently, stroke.
Even if you have had a prior stroke or heart attack, controlling high blood pressure can help prevent another one.
In order to prevent the risk of stroke, and lower your blood pressure you should try to lose weight, eat a healthy diet that is low in salt, saturated fat, and trans fat; eat fruit and vegetables, and the type and amount of fat you eat is what is important, take up a regular physical activity, limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day if you’re a man and one drink a day if you’re a woman, take all medicines as prescribed, and know what your blood pressure should be and try to keep it at that level.