When it comes to diseases that sit on most of our radars, heart disease and cancer consistently rank near the top; however, while stokes don’t play a huge factor for most people—even when they know someone who has had one—it’s important to realize that their frequency means they should be a major concern for all of us, especially when the consequences can be life-changing
Each year in the United States, almost 800,000 people suffer from a stroke, which means someone has one every 40 seconds and approximately 130,000 of those people will lose their life as a result.
Although many of us know about the possibility of paralysis after a stroke, it’s not an exaggeration to state that the consequences of even the mildest stroke can be devastating. After heart disease and cancer, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., but it’s also important to realize that it is the number one cause of disability.
While the actual death rate has decreased over the last several decades, due in large part to more aggressive treatments for stroke-related risk factors (i.e. high-blood pressure and smoking), the best weapon continues to be prevention.
Plain and simple, over 50% of all strokes can be avoided with simple lifestyle changes and a belief in prevention, which is particularly true if you’re over the age of 50. In addition, the faster a victim receives emergency care, the better their chances for recovery. While dangerous, strokes are not always life-threatening or even a cause of disability, but it’s worth understanding that they should be a pressing concern for anyone who is overweight, smokes, has diabetes, and/or deals with high-blood pressure.
In general, living your life in fear is not the answer; however, making a realistic, honest assessment of your current risk factors and considering how you can minimize them is essential. Accountability is perhaps the hardest part of taking care of your well-being, but if you’re looking to avoid a dramatically life-changing health event, it’s important to get a handle on where you are at and where you need to be.
Whether you’ve been told that you’re at risk of a stroke or are worried about your chances, please feel free to contact our office to learn more. We’re here to help.
Dr. Joseph J. Ricotta II MD, MS, FACS
Vascular Institute of Atlanta