All over national news this past week is the sad news that the talented Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds,passed away just a day a part from cardiac arrest and stroke.
The loses of two admired and adored public figures has helped shed more light on the number one killer of women, heart disease, and stroke, a leading cause of disability in women. What also has been highlighted, is that the fact that heart disease and stroke not only impact the very old, but women of all ages. My stroke occurred when I was 36, at an age I never thought I was at risk.
Recent articles claim Debbi Reynolds death was caused by a hemorrhagic stroke, a type of stroke that results in bleeding in the brain, and that she had suffered from previous mini-strokes as well as had history of hypertension (high blood pressure). High blood pressure has been directly linked to an increase risk in both stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks.
What I have learned from having my own stroke, it is that is so important to be vigilant about your health. High blood pressure (hypertension) like high cholesterol, can easily go un-detected, especially if you are young and appear healthy. One way to help reduce your risk is to have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, checked regularly and keep your own records, so that you can monitor any changes. This should be a lifelong practice and it is never too early to start.
Prior to my own stroke, it had never occurred to me that I should be aware of my blood pressure and cholesterol in my 30s. I had no idea if I was in a healthy range, I just figured my doctor would tell me if there were any concerns. But leaving the tracking of your health entirely up to your doctor (especially when you are young) is not a good idea. Knowing your health status now is so important. I know it can be emotional and scary to take a close and deep look at your health, especially if you have a family history of disease. But the information you collect today, can be your baseline, your compass that guides you in making important health and wellness decisions for yourself. For example, blood tests that show a slight elevation in your blood pressure or cholesterol can be lowered by improving eating habits and embracing a healthier lifestyle. You don’t want to wait years to find out you have high cholesterol or hypertension, when you are at the point of needing medications or because you have developed heart disease. Knowing your health status now, can help you identify the changes (even small ones) you need to make to reduce risk of facing a stroke and heart disease in the future.
For more details on knowing the warning signs of stroke and heart attack visit The American Heart Association.