While stroke is the number five cause of death among adults in America, many may not be aware that stroke undeniably is the number one killer of African Americans. The onset of stroke symptoms may occur weeks in advance before the actual stroke occurs. Learning to listen to the messages your body is sending is important in preventing the onset of a debilitating stroke.
The Relationship between Stroke and Obesity
The rise of obesity in the African American community is startling, and is a contributing risk factor to stroke in our community. What is obesity? Obesity is different from person to person depending on their waist measurement and the body mass index (BMI). For women, 35-plus inches and in men, 40-plus inches.
When a person’s body weight is heavier, it forces the heart to work harder, which can compromise the blood vessels which increases the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by blood vessels that have burst in the brain. Obesity also increases the risk of an ischemic stroke (is-Kem-ik) – strokes caused by the blockage of an artery, as obesity also increases high cholesterol.
Decreasing Obesity – There are actions that can be taken to reduce obesity, which will help reduce the risk of stroke.
The following is a list of activities that can reduce obesity:
- Don’t focus on the actual weight loss; focus on creating healthy behaviors.
- Focus on a healthy exercise regimen; a 30-minute workout every day.
- Understand your genetics; compose a family medical tree.
- Reduce time in front of the television, video games, and the computer.
- Eat when your body tells you to eat; eat slowly.
- Keep foods that are fat-free and fresh fruit and vegetables accessible.
- Gain an understanding of the importance of portion sizes in reducing unnecessary weight gain; train your body to eat smaller portions.
- Make sure your diet includes whole grain foods.
- Drink lots of water.
- Be consistant in healthy behavior adjustments.
Warning Signs of Stroke
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Tawanda Johnson-Gray is president of Chicago Urban Heart & Stroke, Incorporated.