May is American Stroke Awareness Month

May is American Stroke Awareness Month

Strokes are a leading cause of death and severe, long-term disability and high blood pressure plays a major role.  Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels as the heart pumps blood.  People often have it and don’t know it.  Also known as hypertension it is called the silent killer because it usually doesn’t have symptoms.  About 1,100 Americans die from the disease each day.  And, because of varying diets and lifestyles if affects regions of the country differently. For example, Florida residents have a 31% chance of having high blood pressure compared to resident of Arizona, who would have a 25% chance of developing the disease.


Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels as the heart pumps blood.  About 1 in 3 U.S. adults have high blood pressure.  High blood pressure can cause damage to arteries throughout the body.  Weakened arteries in the brain can put you at a higher risk for a stroke.  Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases a person’s stroke risk by four to six times.  Blood pressure is measured by millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The three levels of pressure are:

  • 120/80 mmHg and below – normal
  • 121/80 mmHg to 139/89 mmHg – classified as Prehypertension, puts one at high risk for HBP
  • 140/90 mmHg and above – state of Hypertension/suffering from HBP


Up to 50% of strokes can be prevented.  There are no symptoms so it is important to schedule regular doctor’s visit and check your vital signs with a blood pressure monitor. Uncontrollable risk factors include age, gender, race and family history. Some controllable risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking & obesity.  Managing stress is very important.


The good news is that this is a treatable disease.  Only about 54 per cent of people who have high blood pressure have it under control.  Small changes can make a big difference.  The following healthy habits help keep blood pressure under control:

  • Have blood pressure checked regularly
  • Exercise 30 minutes each day
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Lower levels of stress through meditation, yoga, mindfulness or other activities
  • Use less sodium – even ketchup and ice cream have sodium, read the labels and buy accordingly
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and poultry and fish
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men
  • Tell your doctor about all medications including over-the-counter and pain relievers; take prescribed medications


Stroke is the number one cause of serious adult disability in the United States.  Stroke can affect memory, language, vision and can also cause paralysis and other health issues. As a result of a stroke a person may have problems with even the simplest of daily activities. For most stroke patients, physical therapy is the primary step in the rehabilitation process.


Two-thirds of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65.  Seniors need to be aware of and reduce their risk factors.  And, it is critical to have their blood pressure checked regularly.