Reducing Stroke Risk Among Pennsylvania’s Older Adults Starts with Education, Awareness

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Holiday concept. Template for background, banner, card, poster with text inscription. Vector EPS10 illustration

Image by 123RF

By Dr. Maria Dahl, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement of Pennsylvania
Amanda Rees, CEO, Age Bold

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, an important time to review the facts about strokes so you can better understand the risks – for you and for your loved ones.

About 795,000 people have a stroke every year, including thousands of people in Pennsylvania, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). The good news is up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable and if one occurs, it is possible to treat and recover if caught early. 

Getting smarter about strokes is crucial as time is a major factor in preventing disability or death. Understanding the symptoms of stroke and risk factors can help you get help fast and reduce your risks.

stroke is a medical emergency caused by the interruption of the flow of blood to the brain as a result of a clot or internal bleeding. Our brains require a continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients. If blood flow stops, brain cells start to die in just a few minutes.

Because of this, a stroke can have a serious impact on many functions of your body, including speech, respiration, movement, cognition, and bladder control. Strokes reduce mobility in more than half of stroke survivors 65 and over. In fact, stroke causes more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease, according to the National Institute on Aging. Individuals who survive strokes often need physical, speech, occupational therapy and other medical care.

Older adults are at an increased risk of having a stroke. However, there are several ways you can help reduce those risks, including:

  • Make exercise part of your daily routine. Many people don’t know that many Medicare Advantage health plans include fitness benefits. For example, UnitedHealthcare’s Renew Active program offers free gym memberships, personalized fitness plans, workout videos, and group fitness classes.
  • Maintaining a relationship with a primary care provider is an important part of managing chronic conditions like hypertension that can lead to stroke. 
  • Quit smoking, which increases your risk of a stroke, disease, and death. Talk to your health care provider and health plan about resources that might be available to help you quit.
  • Eat healthy foods, like those low in cholesterol and saturated fat, plus lots of fruits and vegetables

If you know the signs and symptoms of a stroke and act quickly, it can mean the difference between life or death, major disability or a better quality of life. If you experience the sudden onset of any of these symptoms, seek medical care immediately:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg — especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Problems seeing in one eye or both eyes
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble walking
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Every year strokes take a toll on far too many of us. Reducing the risks of this too-often devastating condition starts with educating ourselves about stroke and taking small steps to improve our overall wellbeing.

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract [and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor]. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.

Offered as a part of Renew Active®. Participation in the Renew Active program is voluntary. Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program. Renew Active includes standard fitness membership.  The Renew Active program and network size may vary by plan/area.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a doctor. Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine.

+ posts