Stroke & Marriage

Written by Vince Faust

Single or unhappy married men seem to run a greater risk of dying from a stroke than those in good marriages. A study of more than 10,000 civil servants and municipal workers found that 10% of the single men died of a stroke compared to only 5% of married men. When age and known stroke risk factors such as obesity, smoking and diabetes were included in the analysis, single men had a 70% higher risk for a fatal stroke than married men according to the American Stroke Association’s annual stroke conference. There have not been any studies to show that happy married women have the same reduced stroke risk. It would be very interesting to find out.

It’s clear that a long, happy relationship is associated with a higher likelihood of taking the recommended measures against the known stroke risk factors. A married man that smokes will have better support in quitting. 

Stroke is the third leading killer in the United States and the 1# cause of adult disability. 750,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke in the United States. 160,000 of these people will die. There are 5.5 million US stroke survivors. While some stroke victims can recover completely, more than 2/3 of all survivors will have some type of disability. Every 45 seconds in the US, someone has a stroke. The economic impact can cost as much as $40 – $70 billion per year. While women account for 6 in 10 stroke deaths, Black Americans are affected by stroke more often than any other US group. Black Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke as White Americans. 50% of all nursing home admissions are stroke victims. The number one reason for nursing home admissions is stroke. According to the American Stroke Association, 80% of all strokes are preventable.

A stroke or “brain attack” occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain burst or is clogged by a blood clot or some other particle. Ruptures and blockages prevent the brain from getting the blood and oxygen it needs.  Without the blood and oxygen it needs, nerve cells in the brain die within minutes.

When brain cells die during a stroke, the brain’s ability to control various areas of the brain are lost. These abilities can include speech, movement and memory. How a stroke patient’s brain is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.

A stroke is a medical emergency. You should know the warning signs of stroke. 50% of all stroke victims have no warning signs. After the age of 55, the risks of stroke can double every 10 years. 97% of the US adult population cannot identify the warning signs for a stroke.

These signs include:

Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.

Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.

Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.

Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

Any of these symptoms can be temporary and can last for as little as a few minutes. This condition is called a “mini-stroke” or a “transient ischemic attack” (TIA). TIAs can be a good indicator of a future stroke.

Stroke Prevention Guidelines

1.  Know your blood pressure. Have it checked at least annually. If the lower number (your diastolic blood pressure) is consistently over 80, talk to your doctor.

2. Find out if you have atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an irregular heartbeat that changes how your heart works and allows blood to collect in the chambers of your heart. 

3. If you smoke, stop. Smoking doubles the risk for stroke. 

4. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation or don’t drink at all. 

5. Find out if you have high cholesterol (a soft, waxy fat (lipid) in the bloodstream and in all body cells). 

6. If you are diabetic… Follow your doctor’s advice carefully to control your diabetes. 

7. Exercise. Include exercise in your daily activities. 

8. Enjoy a lower sodium (salt), lower fat diet. 

9. Ask your doctor if you have circulation problems, which increases your risk for stroke.

10. Symptoms. If you have any stroke symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do this simple test:

Act F.A.S.T.

FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

ARMS Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred? Can he/she repeat the sentence correctly?

TIME If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important. Call 911 or get to the hospital fast. Brain cells are dying.

Remember 80% of all strokes are preventable.

Vince Faust