Managing Risk Factors

Stroke Risk Assessment Card

Reduce your risk for stroke:

  1. Know your blood pressure. If it's high, work with your doctor to lower it.
  2. Find out from your doctor if you have atrial fibrillation.
  3. If you smoke, stop.
  4. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  5. Find out if you have high cholesterol. If so, work with your doctor to control it.
  6. If you are a diabetic, follow your doctor’s recommendations carefully to control your diabetes.
  7. Include exercise in the activities you enjoy in your daily routine.
  8. Enjoy a lower sodium (salt), lower fat diet.
  9. Ask your doctor how you can lower your risk of stroke.
  10. KNOW THE SYMPTOMS OF STROKE. If you have any stroke symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

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 when the heart is beating and the lower (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.

A blood pressure of less than 120/80 is considered normal in adults. Having hypertension does not mean that you are tense, you can be calm and relaxed and still have increased blood pressure.

When you take any medication to lower your blood pressure, it needs to be taken regularly and should not be discontinued without the consent of your physician. Blood pressure can be controlled by:

  • losing weight
  • eating healthy
  • regular exercise
  • limiting alcohol intake
  • taking our medicine
  • monitoring your blood pressure consistently

Smoking Cessation

This is important, because it is a big risk factor for having a Stroke again. Some tips to stop smoking are:

  • Make an agreement with yourself to quit.
  • Ask your physician or nurse for medications or other assistance that would help.
  • Fight the urge to smoke by going to smoke free facilities and avoid staying around people who smoke.
  • Ask family and friends to support you.
  • Remind yourself that smoking causes many diseases, can harm others and is deadly.

Diabetes Management

If you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes, you’re trying to understand a lot of new information. Diabetes is a serious disease, but many people with diabetes live long, normal lives. With healthy habits, you can control the disease and continue doing the things you like to do. There are two main types of diabetes, called type 1 and type 2. Both affect a person’s ability to produce and use insulin, the hormone that controls glucose (sugar). Diabetes causes a build-up of sugar in the blood and leaves your cells without the fuel they need. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and hurt your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart.

Type 1 Diabetes

With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. It requires daily insulin shots or an insulin pump. Your nurse will teach you how to give yourself the shots and help you establish a schedule that coordinates your insulin shots and mealtimes.

Type 2 Diabetes

With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or the cells are unable to use the insulin that is made. Type 2 diabetes is treated with medications (pills), though many people with type 2 diabetes also take insulin.
Whichever medications you take, remember to: Follow your doctor’s instructions. Ask your doctor and your nurse when and how often to check your blood sugar and take your medicine. Be sure to take the right amount of medicine at the right time every day, even if you are sick.

Handling Low Blood Sugar

Even if you take your medicine regularly, at some point you will probably find yourself with low blood sugar.

This can happen if you forget to eat, or if you take too much medicine. Low blood sugar will make you feel weak and dizzy. You may start to shake. Other signs include sweating, numb lips, or a bad headache. If you don’t take care of the problem right away, you may even faint. A person with low blood sugar may act like he/she is drunk.

What should you do? Drink half a cup of sweet juice, such as orange or apple. Or quickly eat two spoonfuls of sugar or six to seven small hard candies. Be prepared—you should always carry candies or sugar packets with you.

Once your blood sugar is raised and you start to feel better, take time to rest. If it is near your regular meal time, eat a meal. Recognize signs of trouble. If you faint or if you are not able to eat or drink, you may need
to go to the hospital for help. Call 9-1-1. Do not try to drive yourself anywhere. CALL 911 for transport to the nearest emergency room.

Let others know the warning signs. If they know what to do, they can call an ambulance and get help for you. Call your doctor. If you have a low blood sugar spell, be sure to tell your doctor. He or she may need to change your medication.

Wear a diabetes alert bracelet and carry a card in your wallet or purse. A diabetes bracelet and card let others know about your condition.

Small, positive changes can make a big difference.

  • Set a schedule to keep your blood sugar at an even level
  • Eat three meals a day with a snack in the afternoon and at bedtime.
  • Try to eat at the same time each day, and don’t skip meals.
    Don’t overeat. Besides making you feel bad, overeating may cause your blood sugar levels to go too high.
  • Eat sensible portions, eat slowly, and stop eating before you feel full.
  • Limit fatty foods, sugars, and sweets. Your dietitian can provide meal plans and recipes to help you eat enough vegetables and whole grains.
    Drink water or sugar-free drinks. Avoid regular sodas and other drinks (such as fruit drinks and sweetened tea) that have added sugar.
  • Learn new ways to cook. You don’t have to give up favorite foods; you may have to change the recipes to cut down on fats and sugars. Try new ways of cooking, such as broiling and poaching meats instead of pan-frying them, or steaming vegetables instead of cooking them in butter or oil.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your doctor if your weight is right for your height and build. If you are overweight, set realistic goals to get to a healthy weight.

If You Get Sick

If you take diabetes medicines, take extra care when you have an illness, like an infection, the flu, a sore throat, or a bad cold. Remember to: Call your doctor or clinic. If your cold or fl u is not better after one day, call your health care provider. If you are too sick to eat or have vomiting or diarrhea, your doctor may need to change your insulin or medications.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist about cold or flu medicines. Remind them about your diabetes. Some medicines (even those sold without a prescription) may affect you differently or interfere with your insulin.

Drink plenty of fluids. Drink a lot of water. If you are not eating, you may have regular soft drinks (not diet) and juice. Sip a little at a time if you feel it upsets your stomach.

People who have diabetes are more likely to develop problems such as heart disease, strokes, kidney damage, infections, and eye problems. But there are practical steps you can take each day to protect your health and live well for years to come.