May 29, 2019
KNOW YOUR STROKE RISK FACTORS
ThedaCare Medical Director of Stroke Center Recommends Following Preventive Measures
APPLETON, Wis – In the first article in our series about strokes, we learned how to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and that getting immediate medical attention is vital to potential stroke survival and recovery.
Remember, it’s important to think FAST to recognize the symptoms of a stroke:
- Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to rise up?
- Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
- Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
“Strokes can be prevented and fewer Americans are dying of strokes than in years past,” said Thomas Mattio, PhD, MD, neurologist with the Neuroscience Group and medical director of the ThedaCare Stroke Center. “That reduction can be attributed to more awareness of what causes a stroke and what can be done to prevent one from happening.”
Dr. Mattio explains stroke risk factors, starting with this list of common lifestyle risk factors:
- Being overweight or obese
- Being physically inactive
- Engaging in heavy or binge drinking
- Using illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines
“Anyone whose lifestyle includes any of the above factors should modify their habits immediately to possibly live a longer, healthier life,” said Dr. Mattio. “If they need assistance, they should talk with their primary care provider, be honest about their habits and get help to make the changes needed.”
In addition to lifestyle risk factors, Dr. Mattio says there are several medical risk factors that increase one’s chance of having a stroke:
- Blood pressure readings higher than 120/80
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- High cholesterol levels
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, heart defects, heart infection or abnormal heart rhythm
- Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack
Dr. Mattio explained there other factors associated with a higher risk of stroke which cannot be changed:
- Age — People age 55 or older have a higher risk of stroke than younger people.
- Race — African-Americans have a higher risk of stroke than people of other races.
- Sex — Men have a higher risk of stroke than women. Women are usually older when they have strokes, and they're more likely to die of strokes than are men.
- Hormones — Use of birth control pills or hormone therapies that include estrogen, as well as increased estrogen levels from pregnancy and childbirth.
“Some health factors are beyond our control,” said Dr. Mattio. “That’s why it is important that we change the factors we can modify.”
He offered the following suggestions as the primary things a person can do to prevent a stroke:
- Control blood pressure through diet or medication.
- Quit smoking or vaping.
- Control diabetes.
- Maintain a healthy weight and active lifestyle.
- Eat a diet primarily consisting of fruits and vegetables.
- Lower the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet.
- Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.
- Treat sleep apnea.
- If prescribed by a doctor, take a low-dose aspirin daily and/or an anti-coagulant drug.
“A stroke is a very serious medical situation that needs immediate care,” said Dr. Mattio. “Being aware of our risk factors and knowing what we can do to prevent a stroke are great first steps toward living a longer, healthier life.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.
Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.