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STROKES AREN’T JUST FOR OLD PEOPLE!

By Marcia Conard

SOME SURPRISING CAUSES AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF STROKE.

The definition of a stroke would be an attack on the brain when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked, hurting or killing cells in the brain.  It is a leading cause of death and also a common cause of brain damage and long-term disability.  Lasting results can be trouble thinking and speaking, paralysis, and trouble controlling or expressing emotions.

Signs of a stroke can include:

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  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or trouble walking
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or trouble understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg – especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden severe headache without realizing a cause

If experiencing these symptoms, or you are with someone experiencing these symptoms, Call 911 immediately!  A mini-stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack) will not be as severe, but also needs to be treated as an emergency and a call to 911.  A TIA increases your chances for having a larger stroke.

Remember F-A-S-T for spotting a stroke.  This stands for:

F – Face drooping

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech difficulty

T – Time to call 911

You would think that if you:

  • Do whatever necessary to keep your blood pressure in the normal range
  • Don’t smoke and if your do, quit
  • Work to keep your blood sugar in normal ranges
  • Treat heart disease if you have it
  • Work to keep your cholesterol in the normal range
  • Keep your weight in a healthy zone
  • Stay active
  • Eat healthy

that you have done everything you can possibly do to prevent having a stroke.  These things are the most important steps to take to do so, but neurologists are finding there are other contributing factors that you should pay attention to.  Some surprising factors can include:

  1. Sleep – Not enough or too much

Research suggests that sleep deprivation definitely increases your risk of stroke.  As a matter of fact, if you regularly get less than 6 hours of sleep per night, you may be quadrupling the risk of stroke in a middle-aged person of normal weight.  Why?  Because not receiving the rest you need may increase your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, stress hormones, and inflammation.  Oddly enough, too much sleep also increases your risks.  The American Heart Association suggests you should try to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night.

2. Poor Oral Hygiene

The medical professionals aren’t entirely sure why brushing and flossing your teeth on a daily basis helps to keep your cardiovascular system healthy, they just know it does.  What they suspect is that bacteria that infects your gums also seeps into your bloodstream in turn causing the blood vessels to become inflamed.  The results of a study done in Finland in May 2019 showed after analyzing blood clots that had caused strokes, that 79% of these blood clots had DNA from oral bacteria in them.

3. Atrial Fibrillation or Afib

Afib is a common heart rhythm problem.  Some people have it on a regular basis.  Some people have it on rare occasions and don’t realize what it is.  It is important to note that if Afib goes untreated it can double your risk of heart related death by double.  Your risk of stroke goes up by 500%.  If you aren’t sure if you are affected by Afib and suspect you might be, a conversation with your doctor may be extremely important.  There are now monitoring devices as small as a paperclip that can record your heart rhythm.  If it is discovered you do have Afib, there are a number of treatment options.

4. Too much alcohol

A single night of binge drinking (6 or more drinks) can actually cause a 30% higher risk of having a cardiovascular episode within 24 hours.  If you are a middle-aged man and have had one hangover in a year, you have tripled your chances of having a stroke.  According to the American Heart Association, they recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

5. Antibiotic use

We love to use antibiotics!  However, the medical field is finding that prolonged used of antibiotics makes them more ineffective in treating a variety of maladies and, if they are used for two months or longer, this places a person in a higher group for experiencing a cardiovascular event.  How this happens is due to the fact that antibiotics destroy good probiotic bacteria in the gut which increases microbes that cause disease.  This, in turn, can cause inflammation, narrowing of blood vessels and, finally, heart disease. To protect against this, while taking antibiotics, you can help restore good bacteria by consuming fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha tea, and apple cider vinegar.

6. Upper respiratory infection or Flu-like illnesses

Amazingly, a university study at Columbia conducted this year proved that having one of these illnesses increased your chances of stroke by 40% over the next 15 days and you continue to have increased risk for up to a year.  It is because these illnesses increase inflammation in the bloodstream which can cause clotting and that increases your chances of stroke.  This makes getting your flu shot yearly and washing your hands often very important to ward off one of these illnesses.

7. Prolonged hours of sitting

Are you sitting in excess of five hours per day?  Do you sit 10 hours or more per day?  You could be increasing your chance of stroke by 18% or more.  As a matter of fact, too much sitting can significantly increase your risk of early death from any cause.  This is true even if you run several miles per day as the excess sitting can undo any benefits from the exercise.  Try to get up and move every so often throughout your day. 

8. Red Meat

If your diet is heavy on red meat or processed meat you could be increasing your chances of cardiovascular disease by 19% for every 100 grams consumed per day.  Red meat consumption also increases your levels of TMAO, a gut bacterium that is linked to heart attack, stroke and other death risks.  It is highly recommended that you replace red meats with other healthy choices including plant proteins like nuts and beans.


Marcia Conard is a life-long resident of the Blue Water Area. Marcia has an Associate of Science Degree from St. Clair County Community College. Marcia was licensed by the Federal Government as a Customhouse Broker and worked in Management and as a Director for over 30 years in the Customs Brokerage business. Marcia has two grown sons also living and raising families in the Blue Water Area. Marcia joined the Grant Smith Health Insurance Agency as the operations manager in May 2017.

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