Commentary: Know your ABCS in effort to prevent strokes

Commentary: Know your ABCS in effort to prevent strokes
May 17
18:51 2018

By Dr. Ahunna Freeman

In my few years in community pharmacy, I can attest that numbers don’t lie when it comes to chronic diseases and African-American women.   With May being blood pressure education and stroke prevention month, it’s time to shed some light on the ever-rising trend of high blood pressure in younger African-American women.

Almost half of African-Americans have a risk factor that can lead to a stroke. African-American women are more likely to have strokes at younger ages than any other group of women in the United States. Strokes in the African- American woman can also be more severe, which leads to disabilities, if the individual survives the event.

Stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. You may have also heard of stroke referred to as “brain attack.” A brain attack is a medical emergency. It is important to recognize the signs and get treatment as soon as possible to decrease the risk of permanent brain damage or death.

Although the prevalence and effects of strokes are alarming, it’s comforting to know that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented through lifestyle changes and proper management of other chronic conditions such as blood pressure, diabetes and high blood cholesterol.

Knowing the ABCS of heart health is a good starting point in the prevention of stroke:

Aspirin: Aspirin is an old affordable medication that can help reduce the risk of stroke. Daily dose of aspirin may not be for everyone. It is important to speak with your doctor or pharmacist before starting aspirin to ensure that it is right for you.

Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is the main risk factor for stroke. Community resources are available to monitor and track blood pressure regularly. You can monitor your blood pressure at home, at local community pharmacies, doctor’s offices and even at some grocery stores. Some local pharmacies take it a step further assisting with education and management of high blood pressure. Research shows that self-measured blood pressure monitoring along with appropriate clinical support helps with blood pressure reduction.

Cholesterol: It is simply known as the waxy substance found in fats in the body. Normal levels of cholesterol are crucial in the body’s development. Higher levels, however, increase the risks of heart disease and stroke. A healthy lifestyle including healthy food choices, increased physical activities, and sometimes medications are keys to keep blood cholesterol under control.

Smoking: Contrary to the known phrase “I need a smoke break” to manage stress, tobacco and exposure to secondhand smoke are known to increase blood pressure. Smoking cessation classes and support groups are designed to guide with efforts in quitting smoking.   No matter how much or how long you have smoked, it is never too late to consider quitting.

It pays to invest time in self-care with the help of your care team of clinicians including pharmacists and community support groups who truly have the best interest of your overall health outcome through education and empowerment. Many people have the intention of living healthier and longer but often, the first step proves to be the biggest challenge. Always remember, minor consistent changes go a long way in stroke prevention!

Dr. Ahunna Freeman is a board certified geriatric pharmacist and the clinical director at Southside Discount Pharmacy in Winston-Salem. She can be reached at or at (336) 830-8774.


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