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Winter, December through February, is the peak season for fatal strokes and research suggests they can be linked to changes in weather and temperature.
Based on a national study, each five-degree change in temperature can be linked to a six percent increase in risk for stroke hospitalization, while each five-degree increase in dew point is associated with a two percent increase in stroke hospitalization risk.
It’s important to know the warning signs for stroke this winter, not just because cases increase during this time of year, but because every passing minute during a stroke means the loss of more brains cells and possibly a loved one. During a typical stroke, approximately 2 million brains cells die every minute due to an interruption to oxygen and blood flow to the brain, leading to dizziness, loss of motor functions and a number of other health issues.
“Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in Oregon, yet many patients are unaware they are even having one,” said Dr. Kelli Westcott, an ER physician at Adventist Medical Center. “If you think you or a loved one might be having a stroke, don’t wait to get help. Time is precious, so get medical attention immediately.”
How can you prevent strokes?
Fortunately, 85 percent of strokes can be prevented by making lifestyle changes and taking everyday steps that will reduce your risk for having a stroke:
- Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Quit smoking. It doubles your risk for stroke.
- Get regular exercise.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods.
- Schedule regular wellness check-ups with your primary medical care provider.
Taking preventative measures and being pro-active about your health is one of the best ways for you to stay healthy and prevent stroke and other diseases.
Spotting a Stroke
In the event that you or a loved one has a stroke, knowing the warning signs and what to look for could save a life. Those are:
- Numbness in the face
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs, especially on one side of the body
- Difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
- Trouble talking or understanding what others are saying
- Severe headache for unknown reason or changes in vision
- Loss of coordination or balance
Just remember the acronym, BE FAST when you think a loved one is having a stroke:
B – Balance: Does the person have a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
E – Eyes: Is your loved one experiencing double vision or are they unable to see out of one eye?
F – Face: Is one side of the face drooping? Ask the person to smile.
A – Arms: Does one arm drift downward? Have the person raise both arms in the air.
S – Speech: Is he or she slurring their speech or having difficulty getting the words out right? Have the person repeat a simple phrase.
T – Time: Time to act! Call 9-1-1 and get the person to a certified stroke center immediately, such as Adventist Medical Center.
Author: LivingWell PDX Blog
Adventist Health is committed to creating a healthier Portland community.