*This is a sponsored post I wrote with UCHealth for Stroke Month. While I did receive compensation, all of the opinions and viewpoints are my own.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Ancient Proverb

As you know one of my main goals is to help spread awareness, education, and help with ideas that can prevent health problems.

Did you know stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.?

The highest increase in stroke incidence is in the 25-44 age group and this same age group has the least amount of awareness on the subject.

I guess I didn’t realize the numbers were so high. In fact, stroke wasn’t even on my mind until a couple weeks ago when I met another runner, Mike. I assumed I had taken the steps to get myself in the best health I possibly could, and I continue to eat healthy and exercise regularly. This made me think… I’m not sure I’d know how to spot the symptoms of a stroke or know what to do. I should not only work to be faster in running, but to B.E.F.A.S.T. when it comes to recognizing a stroke.

At first introduction, I would have never known Mike had a stroke six months ago. Tall, lean, and healthy. With a big bright smile, I would have thought he was just another guy going about life. As I had a chance to spend time with Mike, I got to hear a story about a guy who took all the proper steps to live a healthy life.

Mike grew up playing sports, running, and was physically fit during his childhood. Other than being born with a manageable heart complication, he considers himself to be in good physical shape. Playing scholarship football at Princeton, running multiple marathon distances during his early years of adulthood and carrying an 8-10 mile/day running habit through his 40’s (lowering to 3-5 miles a day after 50 leading up to and after his stroke). He doesn’t drink or smoke, runs 6 days a week, and rarely eats out.

Last December, Mike was walking through Denver International Airport and dropped his phone. He reached down to pick it up and couldn’t seem to grasp ahold… Then he lost his grip on his suitcase too. He headed to the nearest restroom to take his blood thinner, prescribed for his heart condition, hoping it would help. He soon realized he was having trouble keeping water in his mouth as it dribbled down the side of his face. Knowing he needed to move fast to make his flight, he took the moving walkway toward his gate.

Mike didn’t know, but he had collapsed on the moving walkway. The next thing he remembers is wondering why people were sideways and rushing toward him. As bystanders helped him sit in an open seat, he realized he couldn’t talk. Shortly after medical help arrived, he remembers being rushed to UCHealth. The medical staff knew he was having a stroke due to his symptoms, which can be remembered with the B.E.F.A.S.T. acronym. After testing, Mike’s Dr. spotted the blockage and took immediate action removing the clot inside Mike’s brain.

When Mike woke up from surgery he realized he was able to move his arm immediately. Knowing it was a good sign, and already feeling better, he was ready to get back to life right away. Even though he had to stay a few days at the hospital, he was already up and walking before he left the facility. It wasn’t long before Mike returned to his daily activities like Sunday School, work, and running. I am excited to say Mike and I will be running the Colfax 5k on May 19th.

After chatting with Mike, he credits his healthy habits, the actions of the first responders, and the incredible work of the UCHealth medical staff for the successful removal of the blood clot and his prompt recovery. Losing a very little sliver of his brain, Mike doesn’t feel much has changed since he had his stroke. He is back to living a healthy and active lifestyle.

We can take steps to reduce our risk of stroke, but like Mike, a stroke can affect even the healthiest people. Not to mention, we are all surrounded by friends, family, and coworkers who are also at risk. So, what can we do to reduce our risk?

Lifestyle changes are a terrific way to get started! Here are the steps I’ve personally taken to decrease my own risks.

  • 20 minutes of physical exercise everyday (yes, even walking) can make a world of difference! Not only does walking get our blood flowing through our body but it has positive effects that last our entire day. Who doesn’t feel better after a walk?! Who knows, one walk around the block can change your whole life. It’s the one step that has taken me places I never knew were possible!
  • Maintaining a healthy diet is a fantastic way to reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. With so many different “diets” I think most people are confused with where to start and what to eat when they want to improve their health… I do think there is a solid agreement that real food is the best food. Eating a good amount of fruits and vegetables, limiting or eliminating processed foods, reducing added/refined sugar, and limiting eating out is a good place to start. I’m obviously not a Dr., but I can tell you from personal experience that making proper food choices has been more important to improving my health than running ever has been!
  • I also think there is a wide understanding that smoking/tobacco use increases our risk for many different health problems, including increasing our risk of stroke. Drugs and alcohol also have a negative effect on our overall health. By reducing or eliminating these harmful products from our everyday use, we can increase the return on a better eating program and increased exercise! I know from experience, the same steps we take to build an exercise routine and eat smarter is the same process we use to break the habits of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. We set a goal and we build the habits one step at a time.

What happens when the unexpected happens? How do we identify a stroke? What do we do?

It’s important to B.E.F.A.S.T. when identifying the symptoms of a stroke because our brain cells are counting on it.

Balance- Falling or unable to walk straight
Eyes- Unable to focus
Face- Uneven or drooping smile
Arms- One arm is weak
Speech- Slurred or jumbled speech
Time- Call 911 NOW!

Awareness and action are most important! Thousands of brain cells die every second someone is having a stroke. The faster we receive professional medical care, the better chance we have to recover.

Knowing how to spot a stroke and what actions to take can not only help people like Mike. They might be able to help you or someone close to you so remember to B.E.F.A.S.T. to recognize and how to take action when you see the signs of stroke. You can learn more about stroke awareness and find out your risk level at https://www.uchealth.org/extraordinary/stroke-awareness-month/

Published by Gary Stotler

Gary Stotler is a father, running, fitness, weight loss and personal development addict. Formally 400 pounds, Gary has naturally lost 200 pounds, created a coaching & speaking business and has become a 100 mile ultra-runner. Holding a degree in Psychology & Sociology, certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a personal trainer, mindset & behavioral modification coaching, a certification in DISC personality assessment coaching and he is a certified speaker, coach & mentor with the John Maxwell Team. Gary firmly believes, if we take One Step at a Time, nothing is impossible. He is determined to let his actions show people what is possible and hopes to help you shake up your thoughts, change your actions and create your future.

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