I had a mild stroke at the age of 36. I had heard of stroke; I just didn’t know I was eligible for one in my thirties. I was having a stroke and did not even know it. Luckily, I went to the emergency room and was diagnosed right away. I was experiencing loss of control and feeling in the left side of my body, followed my an immensely painful headache and dizziness. Once I was admitted to the hospital and my stroke was diagnosed, doctors told me that I would likely be in the hospital and then a rehab hospital for 5 weeks, as I would need to retrain my brain to control my left leg, which I was unable to move at the time. I was shocked, and as a mother of two young children, wife, and fitness instructor,I was devastated. Fortunately, the day after my stroke, I regained movement of my left leg and was discharged just four days later. My doctors attribute my being in good physical health as big factor in recovering so quickly. My doctors determined my stroke was caused by a blood disorder, called factor V leiden, that increases risk of blood clotting, as well as they found I had a small hole in my heart that allowed a clot to pass to my brain.
What surprised me was learning that even young “healthy” people can be effected. I found it difficult to believe that I knew so little about recognizing a stroke, the number 5 cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States. I also did not know the serious importance of getting medical treatment right away if you are having a stroke. Getting treatment right away can reduce months and possibly years of recovery time. I am grateful today that I am doing well because I got treatment for my stroke right away.
Since my stroke, I have been on a journey of learning and advocating to raise awareness about stroke prevention, recognition, and in encouraging others to embrace a healthier lifestyle. One of the most important things I know now is that 80 percent of strokes and heart disease are preventable through living a healthy lifestyle, which means to me, in many ways you can save your own life.
I became a spokesperson for The American Heart and Stroke Association, not to scare people, but to emphasize that having knowledge about your current health – although sometimes freighting -can lead to diagnosis and treatment. I believe becoming more aware of one’s current state of health can help by creating a baseline to use as a compass to guide you towards long term health goals. For example, knowing your current blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, weight status, can help guide you to knowing where you can make even small changes to improving your health and reducing risk for stroke and heart disease. Small changes can go a long way towards long term health. According the Harvard Medical report, the most important steps that can take to prevent a stroke are: Lowering your blood pressure, keeping cholesterol levels healthy, stop smoking, lose weight if necessary, and exercise regularly.
I also want to help others know the FAST approach to spotting a stroke:
T-time to call 911