Written by Cindy Charlton, Director of the Neurological Rehabilitation Center at Easterseals Colorado

Currently there are 7 million stroke survivors in our country. Because stroke is so prevalent in our country, it is imperative to have as much knowledge as possible to keep you and your loved ones stroke free.

Three major myths pertaining to stroke:

  • Strokes are not preventable
  • Strokes are not hereditary
  • Strokes only happen to older adults

The fact is…

  • Strokes can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices. If you have high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, changing your diet to reduce your cholesterol and lower your blood pressure is crucial to reducing your risk for stroke. If you are a smoker, QUIT. I cannot express how dangerous smoking is to your health. Smokers are 4 times more likely to have a stroke than none smokers.
  • Strokes run in families. If you have a family history of stroke, you run a higher risk of having a stroke.
  • Strokes can happen to anyone at any time. They are considered a “brain attack,” and are non-discriminatory. They can happen at any age.

My great aunt Madge had a stroke when she was in her 40’s. The knowledge about stroke—how to prevent stroke and treat stroke—was extremely limited when she had her stroke. Like many people of her generation, she smoked cigarettes and ate a high fat/high sodium diet. My great aunt’s family was from the southern part of the United States, and almost all of their meals consisted of fried foods and gravy. Her family also had a history of heart disease—what they termed as “a bad heart” in those days. I don’t know what her family history of stroke was, although I can surmise that many of her relatives had had strokes, simply because of their lifestyle and propensity for heart disease. My great aunt’s youngest brother also had a stroke, as did my grandmother, my mother, and my mother’s sister.

I was with my mother when she had her stroke. She had just had her 66th birthday and none of us considered her “elderly”. But after witnessing my mother’s stroke —both of us were smokers—I threw the cigarette pack away and never looked back. Unlike my great aunt, I knew that smoking was a huge risk factor for stroke. I haven’t smoked in 22 years.

Many of the people who come to the Easterseals Neuro Rehab Adult Day program are stroke survivors. The vast majority of them smoked cigarettes, had high fat/high sodium diets and many have heart disease, or other health risk factors which put them at a higher risk of having a stroke.

One of my participants told me the other day, “if I had known then what I know now, I would have changed a lot of things.”

The bottom line is that none of us have a crystal ball. If we could see into our futures, we’d change many things, no doubt. However, the point is we do know now what the risk factors are, and what actions we can take to live a healthier life. None of us are invincible. None of us are perfect. But we all have the power to change those things which make us unhealthy.

So, be aware, be knowledgeable, and be smart. If you or anyone you know is at risk of having a stroke, pass this information along. You could be responsible for helping save someone’s life…or maybe even your own.

If you or someone you know has suffered from a stroke, click here to learn more about how our Neurological Rehabilitation Center can help. Or contact Cindy Charlton at charlton@eastersealscolorado.org or 303.953.1377 x 343.

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