May is National Stroke Awareness Month, which makes it a fitting time to educate yourself on the causes, symptoms, and risk factors for strokes. Unfortunately, more than 200,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year. This medical emergency occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted, thus resulting in brain damage.

Risk Factors for Strokes

There are many risk factors that can increase your own risk of having a stroke. Heart rhythm disorders are among the most common risk factors. When your heart is out of rhythm, such as with atrial fibrillation (Afib), you are five times more likely to suffer from a stroke. That’s because Afib can cause blood to clot and then travel to the brain, resulting in a stroke.

Other common risk factors for stroke include:

  • Heart disease (or family history of heart disease)
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol and/or blood pressure
  • Poor diet and/or obesity

Stroke Warning Signs

By being aware of stroke warning signs, you can seek the necessary medical attention. A few of the most common signs of a stroke include sudden difficulty walking and speaking. Many people suffering from a stroke will also experience numbness on one side of the face or body. In some cases, complete paralysis of one side of the face or body may occur.

Other common signs of a stroke that warrant immediate medical attention include:

  • “Pins and needles” feeling
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Vertigo or lightheadedness

If you or someone you know displays these signs of a stroke, call 9-1-1 for immediate care.

Tips for Stroke Prevention

While there is no surefire way to avoid a stroke, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. For starters, work to manage any underlying heart problems or medical conditions (such as high cholesterol or heart rhythm problems) that are known risk factors. Strive to maintain a healthy weight and make sure you’re getting at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. If you’re a smoker, take serious steps to quit.

At Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A., we specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of heart rhythm problems that can increase your risk of a stroke. If you’re experiencing heart rhythm problems, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mathew.