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The premature death of Luke Perry at age 52 came as a shock to everyone. Although the origin of his stroke has not been released, death by a stroke is among the top five killers in the United States. While also a shocking statistic, it’s the reality we face.

What does that mean for you?  Prevention and early recognition of a stroke are key.

Reduce Your Risk for Stroke

Preventative measures that can reduce the risk for a stroke at an early age include the following:

Smoking avoidance

If you are a smoker, quitting can significantly reduce chances of stroke.

Blood pressure screening and control

Blood pressure can be measured for free in many public settings. You can also measure at home with your own blood pressure cuff. Measurement should also be part of every provider visit. If your blood pressure is 140/90 or above, work with your provider to find ways to lower it.

Cholesterol screening and control

The American Heart Association recommends that adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. A cholesterol check is done at your physician’s office and requires a small blood sample. You are at an increased risk for a heart attack or stroke if high triglycerides levels are combined with low HDL or high LDL.

Diabetes

If you have diabetes, work with your provider to attain blood sugar levels as normal as possible. For type 2 diabetes, lifestyle changes can often improve control and if you have pre-diabetes, lifestyle changes can delay the onset.
 
Lifestyle

The way we eat and move plays a key role in preventing a stroke, especially at an early age.

  • Healthy diet: To prevent heart disease and stroke, the American Health Association recommends, “As part of a healthy diet, eat plenty of fruits and vegetablesfiber-rich whole grainsfish (preferably oily fish-at least twice per week), nuts, legumes and seeds and try eating some meals without meat. Select lower fat dairy products and poultry (skinless). Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat.” Attaining ideal weight as best you can will additionally reduce chances of stroke.
  • Physical activity: Regular physical activity is recommended to reduce chance of stroke.

There are also rare causes that can cause stroke including family history and childhood heart conditions. Consult with your provider if you have this history.

Early Recognition Can Save a Life

And for the sake of your own health and others, early recognition can be lifesaving.

Early symptoms of stroke and response to symptoms include:

  • Facial drooping
  • Arm and/or leg weakness
  • Speech slurring
  • Time (is saving brain)

These are best remembered as FAST. If you are in a situation with any of these symptoms, call 911.

Dr. Larry Wu

About Dr. Larry Wu

Larry Wu, MD is a regional medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and provides consultative services for employee health solutions, prevention, chronic disease, care management, medical expense and utilization management. He is a family physician with over 20 years in clinical practice, has served as clinic director in the Indian Health Service, Kaiser Permanente and Duke Family Medicine and currently maintains a part-time clinical practice.