• Age makes us more susceptible to having a stroke, as does having a mother, father, or other close relative who has had a stroke.You can’t reverse the years or change your family history, but there are many other stroke risk factors that you can control—provided that you’re aware of them. “Knowledge is power,” says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. “If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk.”

    Here are seven ways to start reining in your risks today, before a stroke has the chance to strike.

    1. Lower blood pressure

    High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled. “High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke in both men and women,” Dr. Rost says. “Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference women can make to their vascular health.”

    Your ideal goal: Maintain a blood pressure of less than 120/80. But for some, a less aggressive goal (such as 140/90) may be more appropriate.

    How to achieve it:

    • Reduce the salt in your diet to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (about a half teaspoon).
    • Avoid high-cholesterol foods, such as burgers, cheese, and ice cream.
    • Eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, one serving of fish two to three times a week, and several daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy.
    • Get more exercise — at least 30 minutes of activity a day, and more, if possible.
    • Quit smoking, if you smoke.

    If needed, take blood pressure medicines.

    2. Lose weight

    Obesity, as well as the complications linked to it (including high blood pressure and diabetes), raises your odds of having a stroke. If you’re overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can have a real impact on your stroke risk.

    Your goal: Keep your body mass index (BMI) at 25 or less.

    How to achieve it:

    • Try to eat no more than 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day (depending on your activity level and your current BMI).
    • Increase the amount of exercise you do with activities like walking, golfing, or playing tennis, and by making activity part of every single day.

    3. Exercise more

    Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but it also stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer.

    Your goal: Exercise at a moderate intensity at least five days a week.

    How to achieve it:

    • Take a walk around your neighborhood every morning after breakfast.
    • Start a fitness club with friends.
    • When you exercise, reach the level at which you’re breathing hard, but you can still talk.
    • Take the stairs instead of an elevator when you can.
    • If you don’t have 30 consecutive minutes to exercise, break it up into 10- to 15-minute sessions a few times each day.

    4. Drink — in moderation

    What you’ve heard is true. Drinking can make you less likely to have a stroke — up to a point. “Studies show that if you have about one drink per day, your risk may be lower,” says to Dr. Rost. “Once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply.”

    Your goal: Drink alcohol in moderation.

    How to achieve it:

    • Have one glass of alcohol a day.
    • Make red wine your first choice, because it contains resveratrol, which is thought to protect the heart and brain.
    • Watch your portion sizes. A standard-sized drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce beer, or 1.5-ounce glass of hard liquor.

    5. Treat atrial fibrillation

    Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. Those clots can then travel to the brain, producing a stroke. “Atrial fibrillation carries almost a fivefold risk of stroke, and should be taken seriously,” Dr. Rost says.

    Your goal: If you have atrial fibrillation, get it treated.

    How to achieve it:

    • If you have symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath, see your doctor for an exam.
    • You may need to take blood thinners such as high-dose aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin) to reduce your stroke risk from atrial fibrillation. Your doctors can guide you through this treatment.

    6. Treat diabetes

    Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them.

    Your goal: Keep your blood sugar under control.

    How to achieve it:

    • Monitor your blood sugar as directed by your doctor.
    • Use diet, exercise, and medicines to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.

    7. Quit smoking

    Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. “Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stroke risk significantly,” Dr. Rost says.

    Your goal: Quit smoking.

    How to achieve it:

    • Ask your doctor for advice on the most appropriate way for you to quit.
    • Use quit-smoking aids, such as nicotine pills or patches, counseling, or medicine.
    • Don’t give up. Most smokers need several tries to quit. See each attempt as bringing you one step closer to successfully beating the habit.

    Identify a stroke F-A-S-T

    Too many women ignore the signs of stroke because they question whether their symptoms are real. “My recommendation is, don’t wait if you have any unusual symptoms,” Dr. Rost advises. “Women should listen to their bodies and trust their instincts. If something is off, get professional help right away.”

    The National Stroke Association has created an easy acronym to help you remember, and act on, the signs of a stroke. Cut out this image and post it on your refrigerator for easy reference.

    FAST - Identify a stroke FAST chart

    Source: National Stroke Association, Harvard Womens Health Watch

    Other signs of a stroke include

    • weakness on one side of the body
    • numbness of the face
    • unusual and severe headache
    • vision loss
    • numbness and tingling
    • unsteady walk.



July 21, 2017 By Ketan Shah

Gloria and her daughter were enjoying a Sunday picnic in one of the many neighborhood parks that they had been to countless of times. They chatted about how beautiful the sun’s rays appeared as shafts of light pored through the branches of a neighboring pine. They spotted a cardinal nestled in its upper branches—the red a stark contrast against the evergreen. It was a good day. Her daughter left for a moment to use the nearby restroom. When she returned, her mother was gone. 

Wandering can leave those that love the people suffering from Alzheimer’s in a panic. If they are unprepared, it may feel like their whole world is crashing down around them. One in nine people over the age of 65 will develop this currently incurable disease. And six out of every 10 of those people will wander. And some will never be found.

Understanding the Problem

An article in Huffington Post quotes Kimberly Kelly, founder and director of Project Far From Home: “There’s approximately 125,000 search-and-rescue missions where volunteer teams are deployed…for missing Alzheimer’s patients every year.” Yet many families do not realize the number of people with Alzheimer’s that go missing or that their own loved one is at risk. Nor do they understand that most Alzheimer’s patients who wander do not consider themselves lost and, therefore, do not reach out for help. They are simply looking for something, often a place or time that feels familiar.

How you can Help

  • Enroll your parent in Silver Alert, or another program in their area that identifies missing seniors. If your loved one goes missing, call 9-1-1 immediately—you do not need to wait the 24-hour mandatory period usually required in missing person’s cases.
  • There are several GPS type tracking devices designed with seniors in mind. These can be worn as a bracelet, anklet or placed in a pocket. Some are even found in tennis shoes. There are some models that are designed to alert the caregiver should their loved one step out of preset boundaries while others that maintain a constant vigil of the wearer’s location. Of course, the trick is ensuring that your loved one is always wearing the device.
  • Create a daily plan and routine for your loved one to help them feel a sense of stability in their ever-changing world.
  • Include exercise and some time spent in the sunlight every day. Make their evening routine relaxing and enjoyable.
  • Avoid crowded areas such as shopping malls that may lead to confusion.
  • Provide supervision and use devices that signal when a door or window has been opened.
  • Consider installing a video camera system.
  • Alert your parent’s neighbors to the potential problem and ask one of them to be a point of contact should you be notified from a tracking or other device that your parent has left their home.
  • Consider obtaining the services of a senior care provider who can care for your loved one when you or other family members are not available.