Prevention, Wellness and Advocacy
At Frazier Rehab Institute, stroke prevention is just as important a part of the recovery process as rehab therapy. Statistics show that people who have had a first stroke are at an increased risk of having a recurrent stroke over time. To help prevent that and minimize any other complications that may occur after a stroke, the Stroke Rehab Program offers many resources that focus on education and wellness, including a detailed family handbook, a stroke education group, a monthly stroke support group [link to Community Resources page] provided in conjunction with Metro Parks, access to the Kentucky and Southern Indiana Stroke Association and the National Stroke Association, and a new Community Fitness & Wellness Program.
Through Frazier’s Shared Care Plan, the rehab team will provide the patient with a personal health profile card to record their medical history, medications, physician information and more. The team will educate the patient and their caregivers on how to utilize the card to become better advocates for their own health.
Frazier's new Stroke Peer Visitor Program is based on a program that was originally developed by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. The program is designed to match stroke survivors with newly diagnosed stroke patients to provide an additional avenue of support from someone who has had the same experiences. “Peer visitors” undergo an eight-week training program, including extensive education on active listening skills, before being available to visit new stroke patients on an as needed basis. The goal of the peer visitor is not only to share information, support and encouragement, but also to provide the newly diagnosed stroke patient with opportunities to think independently through therapeutic listening. The program also provides peer caregivers for family support.
“To-Do” list for stroke prevention:
- Do attend regular medical check-ups.
- Do control high blood pressure - This is the single most important risk factor for stroke. Know your blood pressure and have it checked at least once a year or as frequently as your doctor recommends. If it is 140/90, it’s high. Talk to your doctor about how to control it.
- Do stop smoking.
- Do treat heart disease - Heart disease can cause blood clots in the brain causing stroke.
- Do manage atrial fibrillation - A-fib (an irregular heartbeat rhythm) can cause the blood to pool and clot, increasing the risk of stroke. Talk to your doctor about how to manage this.
- Do improve your diet and monitor cholesterol - Get rid of excess fat and excess sodium in your diet. Also, avoid excessive alcohol intake. Drinking an average of more than one drink per day for women and more than two drinks per day for men raises blood pressure.
- Do maintain a healthy weight - This reduces the risk of heart disease.
- Do exercise regularly - Exercising 20 minutes at least 3-4 times per week also reduces the risk of heart disease.
- Do treat diabetes - Work with your doctor to manage diabetes.
- Do reduce stress - High stress leads to an increase in blood pressure.
- Do manage circulation problems and blood disorders.
- Do avoid illegal drug use - Intravenous drug abuse carries a high risk of stroke. Cocaine use also has been linked to stroke.
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
There are some risk factors for stroke that are beyond our control, but you should be aware of these factors because combined with other risk factors they can increase your overall risk for suffering a stroke. Uncontrollable risk factors include:
Increasing age - Stroke affects people of all ages. But the older you are, the greater your stroke risk.
Gender - In most age groups, more men than women have strokes. However, more women die from strokes than men.
Heredity and race - People whose close blood relatives have had a stroke have a higher risk of stroke themselves. African Americans have a higher risk of death and disability from stroke than Caucasians. Hispanic Americans are also at a higher risk of stroke.
Prior stroke - Someone who has had a stroke is at higher risk for having another stroke.
High Blood Pressure and Stroke
What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure means that the pressure in your arteries is consistently in the high range. It can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure.
Blood pressure results from the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. Two numbers represent blood pressure. The higher (systolic) number represents the pressure while the heart is beating and the lower (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart is resting between beats. The systolic number is always listed first and the diastolic number is second.
A blood pressure of less than 120 over 80 is considered normal for adults. A blood pressure reading equal to or higher than 140 over 90 is considered high. Blood pressure between 120-139/80-89 is considered “prehypertension” and requires lifestyle modifications to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Who is at a Higher Risk for High Blood Pressure?
- People with a family history of high blood pressure
- African Americans
- People 35 years old or older
- People who are overweight or obese
- People who smoke
- People who eat too much salt
- People who drink too much alcohol
- Women who use birth control pills
- People who are not physically active
- Pregnant women
Controlling High Blood Pressure
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Eat a healthy diet that is low in salt, saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Eat enough fruits and vegetables and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
- Enjoy regular physical activity.
- Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day if you’re a man and one drink if you’re a woman. Check with your doctor regarding alcohol consumption.
- Take medicine as prescribed.
- Know what your blood pressure should be and try to keep it at that level.
To learn more about how to identify a stroke, click here to watch the FAST animated video.