Health Watch: How to prevent a stroke in 5 simple steps

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Did you know that 80 percent of all strokes are preventable? That figure, from the National Stroke Association, illustrates just how important it is that you know the steps necessary to prevent a stroke from affecting your life.

Knowing exactly how you can protect yourself from a stroke - which affects approximately 800,000 Americans each year - may inspire you to take action. Start with these simple steps:

Step 1

Don't smoke. Smoking is linked to an accumulation of plaque in your carotid arteries, which supply blood to your brain. Blockage in these arteries, including plaque, is the leading cause of stroke.

Carbon monoxide from smoking lowers the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry to your brain and makes your blood more likely to clot. Blood clots in an artery that supplies blood to your brain can trigger a stroke.

Nicotine in the tobacco raises your blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to stroke.

Step 2

Trim down. Being overweight is associated with many factors that raise your risk for a stroke. Calculate your body mass index online by visiting www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/index.htm.

Step 3

Get moving. If you don't do much physical activity, you can develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, all of which increases your chance for a stroke.

Exercising regularly means at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days. If you can't do it all at once, it's OK to break up your activity into smaller chunks.

Step 4

Prevent or control diabetes. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in your brain and elsewhere in your body. Besides being at a very high risk for a stroke, most people with diabetes die of some form of cardiovascular disease.

Step 5

Eat a healthy diet. Loading up your plate with fruits, vegetables and grains and cutting down on foods high in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat is also an important component in a stroke-preventing lifestyle. As a rule, avoid fatty meats, full-fat dairy and baked snack foods containing partially hydrogenated oils. Keep your sodium consumption below 2,400 milligrams (or 1 teaspoon) per day. This daily amount includes all salt and sodium in your foods, not just salt you add.

-- ARA

New research: Interruptions associated with errors

Nurses who are interrupted while administering medication appear to have an increased risk of making errors, according to new research.

In a study of nearly 100 nurses over two years, interruptions were noted and two types of errors were tracked: procedural failures, including failure to read labels, check patient identification or record administration on medication chart; and clinical errors, including wrong drug, dose, formulation or strength.

Researchers found each interruption was associated with a 12.1 percent increase in procedural failures and a 12.7 percent increase in clinical errors. In addition, errors became more severe as the number of interruptions increased.

-- Archives of Internal Medicine

Did You Know?

Women who are overweight or obese may be at increased risk of developing fibromyalgia. -- Arthritis Care & Research

Health Tip: Which contacts are right for you?

Soft lenses are the choice of most contact lens wearers. These lenses are comfortable and come in many versions, depending on how you want to wear them.

- Daily-wear lenses are the least expensive, are removed nightly and are replaced on an individualized schedule. They should not be used as an extended-wear lens.

- Extended-wear lenses are worn overnight but are removed at least weekly for cleaning and disinfection. They are being recommended less frequently, since there is a greater risk of corneal infection with any overnight wear of contact lenses.

- Disposable-wear lenses are more expensive but convenient. They are removed nightly and replaced on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Disposable lenses are sometimes recommended for people with allergies and for those who tend to form deposits on their lenses.

- Toric soft contact lenses can correct astigmatism, but sometimes not as well as rigid gas permeable lenses do. They usually cost more than other contact lenses.

-- www.geteyesmart.org

Number to Know: 65

A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found U.S. hospitalization for poisoning by opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers increased 65 percent from 1999 to 2006.

Children’s Health: New growth charts in development

Researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia will be measuring children with Down syndrome from birth to age 21 to develop updated growth charts.

Children with Down syndrome tend to grow more slowly and are considerably shorter than most other children, but pediatricians needing to record growth milestones at regular office visits have an outdated set of growth charts based on data collected more than 25 years ago.

Researchers hope better understanding growth patterns might help doctors plan treatment and design preventive health programs.

-- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Senior Health: Personality may influence brain shrinkage

Psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis believe personality and brain aging during the golden years may be linked.

Studying MRI images of 79 volunteers between the ages of 44 and 88 — who also had provided personality and demographic data — the researchers found lower volumes of gray matter in the frontal and medial temporal brain regions of volunteers who ranked high in neuroticism traits, compared with higher volumes of gray matter in those who ranked high in conscientious traits.

Researchers hope further research determines whether personality influences the rate of brain aging, or if it is actually brain changes during aging that influence personality.

-- Neurobiology in Aging

GateHouse News Service