Thursday, August 2, 2012

Take Aim: 7 Steps To Keep Your Health On Target After A Ministroke

As with a stroke, time is of the essence in seeking medical treatment for a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or ministroke. So knowing the symptoms before they happen is essential. “Most TIAs produce symptoms that are very similar to those of a stroke, but they typically go away in a few minutes or hours,” says Theresa Dorfling, cardiology manager at Gwinnett Medical Center. The most common symptoms include sudden onset of:
  • Vertigo or dizziness 
  • Muscle weakness of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side
  • Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
  • Loss of vision or other vision disturbances
  • Trouble speaking, writing or reading
  • Confusion or loss of memory
  • Difficulty recognizing objects or people
  • Changes in senses such as hearing or touch 
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
Want to reduce your risk for stroke, especially if you have had a TIA? Here are the key steps.
Know Your Family History
A good place to start making healthy changes is evaluating your risk. If a close relative has had a stroke, your odds of having one are increased. Your doctor may want you to take extra precautions to reduce your other risk factors.

Manage Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is the No. 1 risk factor for a TIA (and stroke), according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But it’s also a treatable risk factor, says Mark J. Alberts, vascular neurologist and spokesman for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

“If you reduce your blood pressure, you reduce your risk of stroke substantially,” he explains. Most of the following steps can help keep blood pressure at a healthy level, but regular monitoring of blood pressure—by your doctor, at home or both—is important. If lifestyle changes don’t help, your doctor might prescribe medication.

Watch What You Eat
A diet low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can help reduce blood pressure, Alberts says. Many experts recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which focuses on these healthy basics and others, including monitoring portion size and reducing sugar intake. GMC's registered dieticians can develop a personalized plan to help you manage your weight through diet. Click here to learn more.

Get Moving
Exercise is another proven way to manage blood pressure. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, Alberts says, 30 minutes of physical activity every day is recommended. “If you can’t do that,” he adds, “even 30 minutes every other day has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke.” GMC offers fitness classes that you will get you looking and feeling great. For more information, click here and search "fitness classes".

Manage Related Health Conditions
High cholesterol, diabetes and atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm) are risk factors for TIA. Medication may be needed, but high cholesterol and diabetes usually can be controlled hrough diet and exercise. Regular checkups and screenings are important to stay on track. Stress may be another factor in managing high blood pressure.

Quit Smoking
“If you smoke you should stop, because it can reduce your risk of stroke substantially,” Alberts says. There are many programs and strategies to help you kick the habit, which is a smart move for every aspect of your health. GMC offers a smoking cessation program.
For more information, call the GMC Smokers Quit Line at 678-312-2053.

Positive Changes for Life

Other risk factors for stroke include being older than 55 and being African American. You can’t change these facts or your family history. But if you have had a TIA, you can take charge of your life to reduce your risk.
GMC provides a full continuum of stroke care that is nationally accredited. Our hospitals in Lawrenceville and Duluth feature dedicated acute care stroke units as well as stroke rehabilitation programs and services.

At GMC we are committed to providing the highest possible quality of care. We hold a Joint Commission Certification as a Primary Stroke Center. Further, our Glancy Rehabilitation Center earned the Stroke Specialty Program Accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). We are also an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Get with the Guidelines® Gold Plus designee.
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