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Preventing and Surviving Strokes

The National Skilled Nursing Care Week (NSNCW)

The National Skilled Nursing Care Week (NSNCW) is from May 13-19. It traditionally begins on Mother’s Day, which this year falls on May 13 and this year it will focus on “Celebrating Life’s Stories.”

Here at Ditmas Park, resident mothers will be honored with a Mother’s Day celebration and entertainment. Ditmas is also grateful for all the mothers on our dedicated staff.

National Stroke Awareness Month

May is also the National Stroke Awareness Month and many of our resident mothers have come to Ditmas for its wonderful stroke rehabilitation therapy. See our earlier blog article from February 22, 2018 on Stroke Rehabilitation.

High Blood Pressure is the Greatest Risk for a Stroke

The Stroke Association claims that 80% of strokes are preventable. The number one risk factor for getting a stroke is high blood pressure, also called hypertension, so the main way to prevent a stroke is to keep your blood pressure in balance.

Preventing High Blood Pressure and Strokes


Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict and become more narrow, which causes high blood pressure and can lead to the formation of blood clots and strokes.

Alcoholic Drinks

Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure. The problem is determining exactly what is too much, since aging causes seniors to become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends that healthy seniors drink only one cup a day.

Drinking too much alcohol raises the risk to get Type 2 diabetes, which in itself is a risk factor for strokes.

Alcoholic drinks are high in calories and lead to weight gain, which is an additional risk factor for strokes.

Alcoholic Beverages can cause atrial fibrillation, which is a disorder in the rhythm of the heart that can lead to the formation of blood clots. If a clot that forms there reaches the brain this causes a stroke.

Read more about seniors and alcohol in our blog article of April 27, 2018.


The more weight you have to drag around the harder your heart has to work and this also raises blood pressure.

Oxidized LDL Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol is not bad except when it is oxidized. In fact, LDL cholesterol is necessary for a healthy immune system and for fertility and reproduction. Sometimes high LDL cholesterol is an indication that there is inflammation in the body and the best case scenario would be to discover what is causing it. In most cases, the cause is not found or known. Diet can help in some cases, but cholesterol is made in the liver and does not get into the body from eating cholesterol in foods.

However, exercise can lower cholesterol and you should try it as a first and not as a last resort.

Your doctor may recommend cholesterol lowering drugs like statins. In some seniors these can have bad side effects like memory loss and muscle pain, which can even lead to kidney failure, so your doctor will want to monitor you with blood tests to check if there is an increase in a liver enzyme called CK.

High Blood Pressure can be the Result of an Infection

Urinary tract infections (UTI) and kidney problems can cause a sudden rise in blood pressure. When these problems are treated the blood pressure will usually return to normal levels.

Monitor your Blood Pressure

Checking for High Blood Pressure (NIA)

It is recommended that seniors should take their blood pressure at home every day at different times to see if it remains high. Checking blood pressure at home is more likely to be accurate, as some people’s blood pressure rises when they have it taken by a doctor!

The Correct Way to Check your Blood Pressure

It is important to take your blood pressure in the correct way or the results will not be accurate. First of all you should sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor and rest for at least 5-10 minutes. Then take the blood pressure cuff and put it either on your wrist or upper arm depending on the kind you have. The blood pressure cuff should be at the level of your heart. Your arm should not hang down while your blood pressure is being checked, or it will go up higher than what it is. Neither should you sit on an examining table with your feet dangling down. Also, do not talk while your blood pressure is being checked. Talking can also make it rise. After you take your blood pressure wait 1-2 minutes and then take it again. The second reading is usually more accurate than the first one.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Strokes and to Recover from Strokes

Significant lifestyle changes that can prevent and help recover from strokes are giving up smoking, drinking less or no alcohol, following a good nutritious diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, eating more fish and less meat, using extra virgin olive oil as the only fat and oil and last but not least getting enough physical exercise.

Blood Pressure Lowering Medications

If your blood pressure remains high all the time, then your doctor may prescribe one or more kinds of drugs to lower blood pressure. You must monitor it daily, however, to make sure the medicines are working and especially to make sure your blood pressure will not drop too low.

Even if your doctor prescribes blood pressure lowering medication, that does not mean that you should continue smoking, drinking, gaining weight and not getting exercise.


Since 80% of strokes are preventable, there is no time to waste in getting treatment and/or making lifestyle changes to prevent high blood pressure and strokes.

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