May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and with many adults now caring for their elderly parents, this is an important topic because stroke risk doubles every 10 years after age 55, according to the American Stroke Association. Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, head of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center shares who is at risk of having a stroke and how to spot the signs. 

Who is at risk of having a stroke?

Nurse Rose: While stroke is more common in people over age 65 – even young adults, children and babies can suffer strokes due to certain health conditions or having a parent who has a stroke.

These factors make you more likely to have a stroke.

  • Parent(s) who had an ischemic stroke before age 65
  • High blood pressure
  • Black/African American ethnicity
  • Obesity and/or lack of physical activity
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease including atrial fibrillation (A-fib) or carotid artery disease
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet high in fat, trans fat and cholesterol

Are there ways to prevent a stroke from happening?

Nurse Rose: Sometimes factors like genetics or other conditions like sickle cell disease influence an individual’s stroke risk, but there are lifestyle changes you can make to make it less likely.

Reduce your risk of stroke with these tips.

  • Prevent or control high blood pressure
  • Eat healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, fish and whole grains
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night
  • Be physically active daily
  • Keep a healthy weight based on your Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Do not smoke
  • Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes
  • Mange your cholesterol

How can you tell if someone is having a stroke?

Nurse Rose: Just remember the acronym FAST.

F – Face drooping

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech difficulty

T – Time to call 911 immediately

Adventist HealthCare offers high-quality stroke and neurological services. Washington Adventist Hospital and Shady Grove Medical Center are designated as Primary Stroke Centers by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS).


Find more family health tips online or tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to hear Rose live.