Preventing Strokes and Melanoma

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This is me on June 28, 2013. If you’ve read my blog before, my first post was about the stroke I had. I tore the inner lining of my carotid artery and needed an emergency angiogram and stent placement to open it back up. No one thinks they will have a stroke at 30, and I surely didn’t think I would have one. I maintain a very healthy diet, workout 5 days a week for 2 hours at least each day, don’t eat junk food, and my cholesterol is perfect. I’d like to take a moment and tell all of you how to do everything you can to minimize the possibility of having a stroke.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for having a stroke. Many people are on daily medication to control their blood pressure. Normal BP rates vary for everyone, however mine was very normal. Before the stroke my blood pressure was usually 116/70 and that was after two cups of coffee. I could tell the nurse when I would see the doctor what my BP would be and I would only be a few numbers off. Most grocery stores these days have free BP machines that you can check where your rates are for free. I highly recommend you try it, even once. It’s a useful tool that should not be over looked.

Smoking and Alcohol

Both of these things can increase your risk for stroke. Smoking is a gross habit and should not be done simply because of all the negative health affects you can suffer from. If a risk of stroke isn’t enough to scare you out of smoking, then the cancer should.

Knowing Cholesterol Levels

This is one that most people might not be aware of. You should get your cholesterol checked by your doctor. Anything over 200 is not good and should be addressed. Mine, is 176, perfect according to my doctor. When they did the angiogram they said there was no sign of any arteries having plaque in them.

Symptoms of a Stroke

If you experience ANY of these symptoms you should see a doctor. Never second guess the way your body feels. It took a week for me to have a doctor take me seriously because I am so young. I didn’t experience all of the symptoms either, which made me even more unsure as to whether or not I was actually having a stroke.

  1. Trouble walking
  2. trouble with speaking and understanding
  3. paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg
  4. trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  5. headache

Now, I experienced the trouble seeing as my left eye went cloudy, my right hand wouldn’t open and when I raised my arms above my head (Thank you Grey’s Anatomy for teaching me this trick!) my right arm fell, as if it were super tired. I also had an ongoing headache for quite a few days. The only thing that helped is that I took aspirin that day so the doctors believe it reduced the strength of the stroke.

Now on to Melanoma. I’m going to first start by saying I haven’t been diagnosed yet. However, more than one person in my family has had or currently suffers from melanoma. For almost a year now I have been going to the dermatologist to have precancerous moles removed. They are precancerous because the lab results come back as atypical and dysplastic. Because it runs in my family, my genetic makeup is more susceptible to mutating and turning into skin cancer.

Sunscreen is one of the most important sun protection tools out there. Not enough people use it. We are so focused as a society on tan bodies that it drives young teens to tanning beds during the winter months. I was one of those teens. Turns out those are notorious for causing skin cancer 15-20 years later in life. Even after you have sworn off tanning beds, you can develop it, the damage has already been done.

To prevent melanoma, do frequent skin checks on yourself. Check the color of your moles and freckles to make sure they aren’t changing. Check for symmetry. If you cut the mole in half, are both sides equal in shape and color? Do you have new moles that weren’t there recently and are growing in size or do you have any bigger than the eraser at the end of a pencil? If you have any moles you are suspicious of, get them looked at. Your doctor can do a biopsy and make sure it’s nothing to worry about. If they go untreated, they can metastasize rapidly and turn into lung, brain, liver, etc cancer before you realize it. Try to stay out of the sun from the hours of 10 am to 4 pm but if you must, get good sunscreen and be careful!


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