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Why Stroke Awareness Is Important to Me





I was on my way out the door, when she stopped me and told me that her face felt numb. And my response was, “You need to get that checked out.” 


She listened. 


And then she checked herself out of the hospital against doctors' orders because they were able to stabilize her blood pressure. I told her that if the doctors told her she needed to stay a few more days, then she needed to stay a few more days. 

She didn’t. 

She still checked herself out because she “felt fine.”


Note: Blood pressure is a big problem , especially in the Black community, and one of the top causes of a stroke. It’s a silent killer. Most of the time, you will “feel fine” with no symptoms, and stress is one of the leading causes of your blood pressure rising to uncontrollable levels.


I knew my mom was on blood pressure medication, but I was unaware that she had stopped taking it. December 22, 2018 was probably one of the worst days of my life, emotionally. Little did I know my whole life was about to change within an instant.


On December 14, 2018 I got the call that my grandfather had passed away.I was devastated, to say the very least, but my mother was completely heartbroken. I am 34 years old and I have never seen my mother shed tears and weep the way she did. It broke my heart. In my eyes, my mother had always been an emotionally strong person, so seeing her cry the way she did added an extra layer of grief to my soul. I tried to console her as much as I could. I sat there and held her, but I could tell that she was in an entirely different place. Looking back on that time, the only thing I wish is that I knew how to better support my mom. I was there with her, but I didn’t have any words or anything to offer, because nothing seemed like it was enough. 


On December 22, 2018 we laid my grandfather to rest. That morning my mom just wasn’t herself, which I expected due to the circumstances. I know my mom really well, but she was asking me to do things for her like fasten her shoe and put her hair up. Meanwhile, I was trying to get myself and my two children together, so I responded, “Mom, you can do it. What’s wrong?” 


She didn’t respond. 


She just did what she asked me to do. In the moment I didn't think much of it, I assumed she just wasn't all there mentally because of everything that was going on, but if I had known that arm weakness is a sign of a stroke, and that she wasn’t taking her medicine, I could have made a better choice in the moment.


After the funeral, my mother kept telling me she was stressed and that she was really tired. She wanted me to watch my one-year old niece, Creashia, so she could take a ride to Kalamazoo with my great aunt. She said she just needed some air. I didn’t want to watch Creashia because I already had my two children, plus I was grieving as well. But it was a, “I have nothing left in me” kind of ask, so I decided to keep her with me while my mom took the ride. This was the last time I saw my mom “normal”.


Not long after leaving, my great aunt had to rush my mom to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo because my mom had a stroke in the car. Thank God they were close to a hospital. She had that stroke four hours after we laid my grandfather to rest. So me and all the kids, my uncle, and my aunt, we all took the drive up to Kalamazoo to be with my mom. 


The doctor told us that she had a massive stroke due to uncontrollable high blood pressure and that she needed two craniectomies immediately to help the swelling on her brain. I am the oldest. So all of this fell on me.I was stressed to the max at all this happening at once, but I thank God I didn’t have to bury my mother. 


We were able to transport her back to Detroit after a month of being in the hospital. She is paralyzed on the left side of her body so she is unable to walk or do for herself, but ever since the stroke she is doing significantly better.


This is why stroke awareness means so much to me, and this is the reason I want you to know the signs so that you can help your loved ones and possibly save their life!





1. Take your medication as directed

Making sure that you or your loved ones are taking medication as directed is a critical part in controlling your health to prevent other health complications. Some doctors will ask if you want them to put in a prescription for four months or one month at a time. If you can, choose the longer period that is offered just to make sure you don't run out. And if your loved ones are on medication, make a note to yourself to check in on them and ask them if they are taking their medicine as they should. While it might seem like you’re being nosey, their life is more important than you seeming “nosey.”


2.   Stress and depression is a real thing

One thing we can’t do is take stress away from our loved ones, but we can try to get them to open up about what is stressing them and try not to add to it. The one that seems like they are strong and they seem like they have it all together..check on them too. Ask them how they are doing and offer your help within your capacity to help. I have read stories about young people having strokes due to stress. Not food. Because they were a vegan. Not exercise. Because they had a regular exercise routine in place. It was STRESS. Strokes know no age and will send you to the hospital quicker than anything else. It weakens your organs and your immune system.


As I was doing research on the causes of a stroke, stress was not at the top of the list,high blood pressure was. And just so we are clear, there are a lot of things that will run your blood pressure up, but nothing gets it up faster than STRESS. I know my mom was stressed. She had to get custody of my sister’s baby, Creashia. She loves Creashia, she was happy she was available to get custody of her so she wouldn't go to the state, but raising a little baby was very stressful for her, and she let me know that.


3. Your diet really does matter

There is really no nice way to say this, most of our diets are trash. We attempt to do better and choose healthier, but a change in lifestyle is really hard to do. It takes time, like anything else new we choose to take on. We’ve got to change the food we are attracted to and are used to eating and that is NOT EASY by any means. When we are changing our diet the biggest thing that has to be at the forefront of our mind is... Do we want to live?

 

It takes time, but you can eat this elephant a little at a time by just making small changes one grocery shopping visit at a time. Making drastic changes like going from eating your regular diet to nearly starving yourself is not healthy either.


You can start by reading labels in the grocery store, looking at the sodium content, and trying to pick up items that are low in sodium, or no salt at all. Pick up things that do not contain trans fat. And always pick up more fruits and veggies to fill the cart up.


And remember to try to shop along the walls first versus going through the aisles first. The aisles tend to have all the processed foods and the stuff that’s a more healthier choice is usually along the walls. 


Water is also huge. My mom would drink soda over drinking water anyday. But our organs NEED WATER. According to discovery.com, our bodies are about 70% water. Water helps the body get rid of waste and regulates ALL bodily functions.


Just a note for you: Natural Spring water is a better choice than purified water. Always try to go for spring water because it contains the natural minerals our bodies are made up of.


But back to the food...I know the hardest thing for me is making out some kind of budget and a grocery list. I am doing better at planning meals around what is already in the pantry and taking inventory, but I can do a lot better. If this is one of your strong areas, I would love for you to reach out to me at erica@thrivingleaf.org and share some of your strategies with me. :)


4. Find some sleep

Getting into a deep stage of sleep is important. It’s where our bodies get rid of dead cells and restore the good ones. Adults can be just as bad as children sometimes in regards to fighting their sleep. You need to sleep. And if you have adopted this mentality that you will “sleep when you’re dead” chances are you will be dead sooner than later. Lack of sleep is up there with stress when it comes to your blood pressure being so high. Sleep health is so underrated in our healthcare field, but it’s actually the most important part of maintaining our health. When you are in the hospital and they give you medication or keep you overnight, what is it that they want you to do the most? REST. They want you to rest, eat a decent meal, and drink plenty of fluids. This is what we should be doing like it’s second nature. Try your best to change your sleep routine. You can start by:

 

  • Turning your phone off at night

  • Turning your television off at night

  • Taking a hot bath or shower to try to relax

  • Journal about what's bothering you and leaving it right there

  • Write out your day or the most important things you need to get done

  • Going to bed at the same time every night

If you feel you need help getting better sleep, talk to your doctor about getting a sleep test done before you start to consider taking over the counter sleep aids.


5. Exercise everyday

We have to get in the habit of getting our heart rate up! And this will take time just like it takes time to change your diet, but they go hand and hand. We need to move in order to keep our whole body healthy and to keep our blood flowing properly. You don't have to make this hard. You can start by doing some Zumba moves or looking up exercise for beginners on YouTube. Doctors will tell you any exercise is better than no exercise at all, so just start moving! I got a bike this past summer, and I loved getting out there riding! I felt better and just breathing in the fresh air was a great feeling. Find ways for your whole family to get involved, no matter how old or how young!


6. Know the signs!

When my mom first told me that her face felt numb, she was having a pre-stroke, which is also known as a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). According to mdpremier.com, it occurs when there is a brief lack of blood flow to the brain. A TIA is similar to a stroke, but it disappears within 24 hours and it leaves no permanent damage. It should prompt you to seek help because you do not know if it's a full stroke or a TIA, so seek help if you feel numbness in your face or any other symptoms of a TIA, which include: blurred vision, confusion, and dizziness.


FAST is an acronym that we all need to memorize to spot someone that is having a stroke so that we can act fast!

FACE- Drooping on one side. (Migraines can also be a sign of high blood pressure)

ARMS- Arm weakness

SPEECH- Speech difficulty 

TIME- CALL FOR HELP


Millionshearts.hhs.gov is a resourceful website for stroke and prevention information. They have listed the “ABCS” to help prevent strokes:


A- Aspirin helps lower risk of a stroke. DO NOT take if you think you are having a stroke.

B- Control Blood pressure.

C- Control Cholesterol.

S- Quit smoking.


To keep a better handle on your blood pressure, invest in a blood pressure cuff to keep at home. This way you can keep a log of your blood pressure and share the information with your doctor. You can also keep an eye on your loved ones by taking their blood pressure if they are having symptoms. You can get a blood pressure cuff from Walgreens. I paid 50 dollars for mine and it is one of the best investments I have made for maintaining my health at home. You can also buy a cholesterol test at Walgreens for around the same price as the blood pressure cuff to keep an eye on your cholesterol levels at home.


I pray that this has helped you in some way. For more stroke facts you can visit CDC.gov and Millionhearts.hhs.gov 


May is Stroke Awareness month.You can be a blessing to the ministry by donating and helping us in our quest to promote Stroke Awareness and encourage Stroke Survivors by purchasing our Living On Grace T-shirt at Thrivingleaf.org/shop


I love you!



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