When it comes to avoiding stroke, the odds are in men’s favor. So why does stroke remain a serious threat to their health?
As many as eight out of 10 strokes are preventable, according to the National Stroke Association, and yet stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death among American men. Many men are unaware of just how much they can do to reduce their risk for stroke. Others delay acting on their risk factors.
“Over their lifetime, women have higher incidences of stroke than men, but we see more strokes in men during the 50s–to–70s age range than in women,” says Charisse Barta, M.D., neurologist on the medical staff and co-director of the Stroke Program at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano. “Traditionally, men have possessed more controllable risk factors than women.”
Men, it’s time to turn the tide against stroke. Here’s how you can do your part.
Know Your Enemies
The first step toward preventing stroke is learning what risk factors to reduce or eliminate. Certain ones are lifestyle related, such as smoking, inactivity, and salt-, fat- and sugar-rich diets. Others are chronic diseases related to lifestyle choices, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, atrial fibrillation, heart disease, heart failure and peripheral artery disease.
Start an Avalanche
Think of making lifestyle changes as an avalanche, which starts small but gains size and strength and sweeps all before it as it thunders down the mountain. Actions that may seem small or isolated, such as taking the stairs, adding fruits and vegetables to a few meals a week, and quitting smoking, add up quickly and have wide-ranging effects on health by improving many of the aforementioned medical conditions.
Find a Partner in Prevention
Your primary care physician (PCP) is your most important ally in the effort to prevent stroke.
“Men, especially those over age 40, should see their PCP regularly to monitor several of the key indicators of stroke risk, including blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels,” Dr. Barta says. “PCPs often see men who haven’t been to a physician in years and are unaware they’ve developed high blood pressure or high cholesterol.”
Approach Testosterone Replacement Therapy with Care
If you have a medical condition that causes low testosterone levels, speak with your PCP about the risks and benefits of testosterone replacement therapy in the context of your stroke risk. Never use the therapy to treat low testosterone related to aging.
“Testosterone replacement therapy can increase men’s risk for blood clots, and therefore, stroke,” Dr. Barta says. “I’m seeing increasing numbers of men affected by this, and I suspect it will become even more of an issue in the future.”
Unfortunately, not all strokes can be prevented because certain risk factors — age, family history and race (African-American) among them — can’t be controlled. Knowing the symptoms of stroke can help keep you safe. If you experience sudden one-sided numbness, difficulty seeing or speaking, dizziness, trouble walking, or intense headache, call 911 immediately.
To learn more about stroke and to find the accredited stroke center nearest you, visit TexasHealth.org/Stroke.
Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.