July 24, 2014
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Brain Health

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Brain health: 10 things to know

Are you taking good care of your brain? Here are 10 things to keep in mind:

  1. Know the signs of a stroke. If you know the signs of a stroke and get early treatment, it could save your life. If you or anyone you are with have the following signs of a stroke, get immediate medical attention and call 9-1-1:
    • sudden weakness
    • sudden problems speaking or understanding what someone is saying
    • sudden vision problems
    • sudden dizziness
    • sudden, severe headache
       
  2. Protect your noggin! Concussions are a common brain injury. Luckily, most are mild, and most people completely recover from them. To reduce your risk, make sure you and your children wear a seat belt or other age-appropriate restraining device when in a car. Also, wear an approved helmet for sports or activities that increase the risk of head injuries (e.g., skating, cycling, horseback riding, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding).
     
  3. If you're a caregiver, make sure you take care of yourself too. If you are taking care of someone who has a brain injury, has had a stroke, or has Alzheimer's disease, it can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Make sure you have support, can take breaks, and have some time for yourself. If you take care of yourself you will be a better caregiver. For more information, read "Alzheimer's disease: caregiver tips."
     
  4. Don't ignore recurrent or persistent dizziness. Even though dizziness doesn't always mean that something is wrong, it can be a sign of a medical problem. Dizziness can be caused by medications, problems in the brain (e.g., stroke), ear problems, eye problems, abnormal heart rhythms, and many other health issues. If you experience dizziness that is severe, persistent or recurrent, contact your doctor. Read "Dizziness and vertigo" for more information.
     
  5. There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, but medication can help with symptoms. Parkinson's disease results in a decreased amount of dopamine in the brain. This causes symptoms such as tremor, slowed movement, and stiff and rigid muscles. Although there is no cure for Parkinson's, there are several types of medication that can be prescribed to help control symptoms. Learn more about Parkinson's, including possible treatments.
     
  6. Stroke recovery can take a long time. After a stroke, you may have trouble with various activities or tasks, depending on what part of your brain was affected. A rehabilitation program will be developed to help you regain as much strength and function as possible. Your rehabilitation team may include a variety of health care professionals. For more information, read our article about stroke recovery and rehabilitation.
     
  7. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada. Not only that, but stroke is also the leading cause of disability. It's important that you learn about your stroke risk factors and what you can do to reduce your risk of stroke.
     
  8. You can do a lot to reduce your risk of stroke. Although there are risk factors for stroke you can't control (e.g., your age or family history), there are many risk factors you can control. Live a healthy lifestyle - eat well and keep physically active. If your blood pressure or cholesterol levels are high, do what it takes to lower them. If you smoke, stop. And if you have diabetes, keep it well controlled.
     
  9. Depression and other mood disorders are more common in people who have had a stroke, have Alzheimer's disease, or have Parkinson's disease. If you notice mood or behaviour changes in someone you love or care for, talk to them about it or talk to their doctor.
     
  10. 3 out of every 10 people over the age of 85 years have Alzheimer's disease. Age is the single biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease. About 4% of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have the disease, but 30% of people over the age of 85 have it. If you are concerned about Alzheimer's disease, talk to your doctor.

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