June – Stroke
Are You at Risk for Stroke?
Stroke is the third-largest killer of Canadian adults, after heart disease and cancer. It’s also the primary cause of physical disabilities and is second only to Alzheimer’s disease as a cause of mental disability.
In Canada, there are more than 50,000 strokes a year. About 6% of deaths in Canada are due to stroke – and 20% of cardiovascular-related deaths. On average, one stroke occurs every 10 minutes; 15% of them will result in death, 10% in complete recovery, and the remaining in varying degrees of long-term disability. Although the risk of stroke doubles every 10 years after age 55, there are 6.7 strokes for every 100,000 people under the age of 19.
While anyone can have a stroke, including young healthy people, some of us are more at risk. Stroke has many of the same risk factors as heart disease. Although some risk factors, such as age, cannot be controlled, there are many risk factors that can be controlled.
Risk factors that can be controlled or treated include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- blood vessel disease (such as peripheral artery disease or carotid artery disease)
- atrial fibrillation (a disorder of the heart rhythm where the upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating normally)
- heart disease (including atrial fibrillation)
- transient ischemic attacks (TIAs; a “mini-stroke” that has symptoms similar to a stroke, but with no lasting brain damage)
- some types of blood disorders (such as sickle cell anemia)
- high alcohol consumption (for men, more than 14 drinks per week; for women, more than 9 drinks per week)
- recreational drug use (cocaine, amphetamines, and LSD)
- use of postmenopausal hormone therapy
Risk factors that cannot be controlled or treated include:
- age: stroke risk increases as you age, doubling every decade for people over 55 years of age
- gender: strokes are more common in men than in women until menopause, but women are more likely to die of stroke
- family (parents, siblings, or children) history of stroke or heart disease
- ethnicity: First Nations people and people of African or South Asian descent are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes and so are at a higher risk of heart disease than the general population
- personal history of heart attack or stroke: if you have already had a stroke or heart attack, you’re more likely to have a stroke
- low birth weight
If you’re concerned that you might be at risk, speak to your health care professional. They will be able to help you find ways to deal with the risk factors that can be controlled.
Ask Your Pharmacist
Question: What are the warning signs of a stroke and what can I do to decrease my risk?
A: The warning signs of a stroke can include sudden weakness, trouble speaking, vision loss, trouble walking or severe headache with no known cause. If you, or someone you’re with, experiences any of these symptoms, you need to call 9-1-1 immediately. A stroke is a medical emergency and you should get help right away. Canadian hospitals are well equipped and prepared to support all medical emergencies, so please don’t let concerns around COVID-19 stop you from seeking help. To reduce your risk of having a stroke eat a well-balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, get some physical activity regularly, find ways to reduce stress and become tobacco free.
Have more questions? Speak with your Pharmasave pharmacist.
To minimize risks associated with COVID-19, it’s a good idea to give up smoking. If you’ve been thinking about becoming tobacco free, now might be the right time to get started. Your health can noticeably improve in the days and weeks after you stop smoking. It can take more than one try, so don’t be discouraged. There are many options and resources to help you on your journey to becoming tobacco free and your pharmacist can help you build a plan for success.
Speak with your Pharmasave pharmacist today for more tips and advice.
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