Stroke Brain

Strokes Can Be Devastating but Entirely Preventable

The brain is an incredibly complex organ that controls our movement, speech, memories, and essentially makes us who we are. If something interrupts blood flow in just one of the vessels crisscrossing our brain, the result is a stroke, and those brain functions are put into jeopardy.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States and the fifth-leading cause of death. There are around 400 deaths in the U.S. each day due to stroke. The incidence of stroke among people 65 and older — when strokes are more common — has been going down since 1987. It has slowly been increasing among younger adults.

While strokes can be devastating, four out of five strokes are preventable. Changes to diet and behavior, along with cholesterol and blood pressure medication, have helped cut death rates significantly in the last 20 years. Rapid stroke recognition has also improved recovery chances for those who have suffered a stroke.

Take F.A.S.T. Action

Doctor Showing an MRI Scan to a Patient

When blood is not flowing to a part of the brain, it is being deprived of oxygen, and the brain cells in that area start dying. Symptoms include numbness on one side of the body, confusion, blurred vision, a severe headache, and trouble walking. Knowing the symptoms of a stroke and responding quickly are crucial for limiting the damage that results. Think “FAST” when identifying the symptoms of a stroke.

Face — Look at the person’s face. Ask them to smile and see if one side droops.

Arms — Have the person hold both arms in front of themselves. It’s likely one arm drifts down or is unable to rise.

Speech — Talk with the person and note if their speech is slurred or incoherent.

Time — Check the time to see when these symptoms started and dial 911 immediately.

Don’t wait for the symptoms to stop and call even if things seem to go back to normal. The damage or disability caused by a stroke is greater the longer it goes untreated.

Improving the Odds

Constricted And Narrowed Artery Stroke

When someone has a stroke, there is an 80% chance it is an ischemic stroke. These are caused by a blockage in an artery in the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs in 20 percent of stroke patients. This type of stroke is caused when a blood vessel ruptures and blood goes where it shouldn’t and damages tissue.

The most common treatment for ischemic strokes is a drug that dissolves the clot, but it must be given within three hours of the stroke. Clots can also be removed by inserting a stent to clear the blockage.

In a hemorrhagic stroke, the bleeding must be stopped. A catheter with a small camera will be inserted so the doctor can see what’s happening. When it reaches the source of the bleeding it will deposit a coil to close the rupture. In the case of an aneurysm, where there is swelling in the vessel, surgery may be required.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary restriction of blood flow to the brain. Sometimes the blockage is so brief and the symptoms so minor they go unnoticed or are easily dismissed. A TIA is often a precursor to a more serious ischemic stroke. It’s important NOT to ignore the symptoms and seek medical attention immediately.

The Recovery Process

Doctor Looking at a MRI

The sooner treatment is administered, the better the odds of recovery. Unfortunately, once the damage has been done, it is permanent. Brain cells die and the body doesn’t make more.

Physical and occupational therapy are often required to help stroke patients relearn to walk, eat, swallow, regain control of muscles, speak, or care for themselves. A stroke may cause some to lose memories or encounter problems with critical thinking. These can all be relearned with time and therapy.

Who’s at Risk?

Chart of Man With Brain Stroke

Everyone is in danger of having a stroke. Children can suffer strokes just before birth and a few weeks after. Women are less likely than men to suffer a stroke, but they must deal with unique risk factors tied to hormonal changes like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, that increase the chance. Nearly 800,000 Americans each year have a stroke, and 75% of those are first strokes. One-third of stroke patients have another stroke within two years.

Stroke risk increases with age: the majority of strokes affect people over 65. African Americans and Hispanics are at an increased risk of stroke. African Americans, however, are twice as likely to die from a stroke as whites or Asians.

Everyone can reduce the risk of having a stroke by doing the following:

  • Don’t use drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Manage your weight
  • Stay active
  • Stop smoking

AtlaMed Can Help

Doctor Showing Bone Scan to Patient

High blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and cardiovascular disease are contributing factors but they are controllable with a doctor’s care.

AltaMed offers many programs to improve people’s overall health and reduce the risk of stroke. They include:

Follow the links above for more information or call (888) 499-9303.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

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Healthy Lifestyle Changes to Help You Get Your Cholesterol Under Control

Maybe your doctor has told you that you have high cholesterol levels, or you suspect you’re one of the 134 million people in the U.S. who have elevated cholesterol. You may wonder how serious it is, or what you can do to get your cholesterol levels under control.

High cholesterol is not a disease itself, but it’s a condition that puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. If you have elevated levels of cholesterol, you won’t experience any symptoms. Your doctor can give you a simple blood test that measures the cholesterol in your blood.

Good Cholesterol Versus Bad Cholesterol

Cholesterol Check List

Cholesterol is carried through your body on two different types of proteins:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol. This type of cholesterol contributes to fatty buildups in your arteries. If you have too much LDL, you could be at greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol. It is believed that the HDL in your blood carries the LDL away from your artery and back to your liver, where it is broken down and passed out of the body.

When your doctor tests your cholesterol, they’ll measure the total cholesterol, as well as your levels of LDLs and HDLs, and then make recommendations based on these numbers.

Even if you’re not worried about your cholesterol but want to improve your heart health, the tips below are a good start!

Exercise More

Man Stretching His Foot

Doing moderate physical activity can help you reduce the bad kind of cholesterol. Aim for at least 30 minutes five days a week.
How to do it: Just start moving! Even a vigorous walk around the block counts as cardio exercise. Although you’ll get the best results with cardio, strength training can also help control your cholesterol.

Add More Fiber to Your Diet

Healthy Food

Eating soluble fiber—which dissolves in water to form a gel-like material—can prevent cholesterol from entering your bloodstream. This can also aid weight loss efforts by making you feel full for longer, and fiber can help prevent constipation.
Where to find it: apples, pears, oatmeal, Brussels sprouts, oat bran, almonds.

Eat Less Red Meat

Salmon with Asparagus and Lemon Dish

Red meats, such as beef, pork, and lamb are high in saturated and trans fats which can raise your cholesterol level and increase your risks for high blood pressure and heart disease.
How to do it: White-meat, skin-off chicken and fish are healthy proteins, and there are also many delicious meatless options you can try. Fish/seafood like salmon, mackerel, oysters, sardines, and anchovies are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health and may lower your bad cholesterol.

Cut Down on Full-Fat Dairy Products

Dairy Products

Whole-fat dairy foods like milk, cheese, cream, and ice cream are high in saturated fats and cholesterol and can raise your LDL levels.
How to do it: Look for low-fat or cholesterol-free versions of your favorites. Swapping 2% milk for regular milk still gives you all the bone-building calcium and nutrients but without the cholesterol. Instead of ice cream, try a fruit sorbet or sherbet.

Quit Smoking

Smoking tobacco and using products like vapes are some of the worst things you can do for your health. Cigarette smoke raises your LDLs and lowers your HDLs – in addition to putting you at greater risk for many diseases and ailments, including COVID-19.
How to do it: Quitting is often easier said than done, especially if you’ve smoked for a while. Our Behavioral Health Services team can offer you support and make recommendations to support your journey to go tobacco free.

Lose Extra Weight

Woman Doing Pushups

Being overweight can increase your cholesterol levels and put you at higher risk for heart disease, so even losing just a couple of pounds can help lower your cholesterol.
How to do it: Making a few simple lifestyle changes like the ones outlined here can help you lose weight at a safe and steady pace. Your doctor can give you more information and make personalized recommendations.

Skinny People Can Have High Cholesterol, Too!

Anyone is susceptible to high cholesterol, including young people, athletes, women, men—basically everyone. Some of the risks are related to lifestyle, but certain health and genetic conditions can contribute to high cholesterol which is why changing your diet isn’t always enough. Many people with high cholesterol can use cholesterol medications to manage their levels but lowering your cholesterol with healthy lifestyle choices should always be the first choice.

You Have Support

Vegetables in a Heart Shaped Dish

We encourage you to work with your doctor to get your numbers down and grow healthy! If you’re interested in our Healthy Heart Program, which helps individuals achieve healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, please call (323) 558-7606.

Blood Pressure

Heart-Healthy Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure

If you’re like many Americans – about 100 million, or almost half of all adults, according to the American Heart Association – you have high blood pressure. It basically means that your heart has to work too hard to pump blood throughout your body.

Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney problems, and even dementia.

If high blood pressure sounds serious, it is, especially if it’s left to rise. However, finding out if you have it is easy: when you see a doctor, one of the first things they do is check your blood pressure with that inflatable cuff known as a sphygmomanometer.

Categories of Blood Pressure

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to reduce your blood pressure and improve your heart health.

Exercise Regularly

Woman Practicing Spinning

Engaging in at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day is one of the best ways to lower your blood pressure. Don’t worry about joining a gym: taking a walk, hike, or bike ride outdoors is a great way to get cardio. Every bit helps

Stop Smoking

Stop Smoking

Smoking, using chew or dip, vaping, or any tobacco or nicotine consumption immediately raises your blood pressure. Many of these substances contain chemicals that damage your heart (and many other parts of your body).

Cut Back on Your Drinking

Glasses and Cups With Alcoholic Beverages

Many people who enjoy a drink or two say that it helps them feel less stressed. You’ve also probably read that having a glass of wine is good for your heart. Unfortunately, there’s no hard scientific evidence that shows that any alcoholic beverage can actually lower your blood pressure. If you drink, do so in moderation: no more than one drink a day for women, or two for men.

Use Less Salt

Salt Shaker

Cutting the amount of salt you add to your food is a step in the right direction. But even if you stop adding it to your meals, you may still be getting an unhealthy amount of salt. These tips can help you sweep out the sodium.

  • Read food labels. The ingredient you want to look at it sodium. You will be shocked to learn how much is in foods that aren’t very salty, like bread, sauces, ketchup, and even breakfast cereal. Look for low-sodium alternatives.
  • Cut back on processed food. Food naturally doesn’t have much sodium, but when food is processed with additives, sodium is added. Lunch meats, canned soups, snack foods like chips and crackers, and pasta meals (like mac and cheese in a box or canned spaghetti) are among the highest in sodium.
  • You don’t have to do it all at once. Cut back gradually – if you find your food’s too bland, try adding some spices and seasonings to shake up your taste buds. Eventually, you’ll find that many foods are too salty for you, and you’ll crave them less.

Watch Your Weight – and Your Waist

Man Looking at Donuts

There’s a direct link between weight and blood pressure: according to the National Institutes of Health, when your body weight increases, your blood pressure rises. If you’re overweight or obese, even dropping a small amount of weight can reduce your blood pressure.

If you carry your extra weight in your stomach (if you’re apple-shaped rather than pear-shaped), you may be 22% more likely to have high blood pressure. The diet and exercise tips above can help you reduce your weight and your waistline but ask your doctor about realistic goals based on your health history.

Drink Fewer Caffeinated Beverages

Coffee Grains

Even though caffeine has some health benefits, not everyone can tolerate it. For many people, a cup of coffee or a soda may be enough to spike their blood pressure. If you’re looking to stay hydrated, consider some of these healthy beverages.

Keep Your Stress Down

Color Notes Sticked to the Wall

Science still isn’t 100% sure of why stress and high blood pressure are linked; it could be that when people are stressed, they eat unhealthy foods and drink more. If you have high blood pressure, learning how to control your stress may help lower it, cut your risks for other conditions, as well as helping you reduce your number of headaches, colds, and sleepless nights.

Think You Have High Blood Pressure? Call Us

Senior at Hospital

For those who do have high blood pressure, regular checkups can ensure it’s in an acceptable range and then take action if it’s not. Some people may need medication to control their blood pressure but making healthy lifestyle changes should always be the first course of action. Call us to schedule an appointment and get personalized recommendations that can help your heart grow healthy.

Strokes Can Be Devastating but Entirely Preventable