Are You at Risk of Stroke?
South Asian Americans have an increased likelihood of dying from heart conditions caused by atherosclerosis, such as heart attacks and strokes. This Stroke Awareness Month, here’s what to know and how to lower your risk.
Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. Compared to people living in the U.S. from East Asia and people of European ancestry, South Asians have a higher risk of both heart disease and stroke.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked (ischemic stroke) or when there is sudden bleeding to the brain (hemorrhagic stroke.) Both types of stroke cause damage to brain cells, which can lead to brain damage, disability, and even death.
Increased Stroke Risk Factors in South Asians
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and diabetes are the leading causes of stroke. Despite having lower obesity rates than other ethnic groups in the U.S., studies have found that Asian-Americans have twice the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes. When compared to other groups, South Asians also tend to develop high blood pressure, high triglycerides, abnormal cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes at lower body weights.
You are also at a greater risk of stroke if you:
● Have a heart and/or blood vessel disease
● Have brain aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)
● Have a viral infection or a condition that causes inflammation
● Are 55 or older
● Have a family history of stroke
● Are not active enough and/or are overweight
● Take birth control pills
● Drink alcohol
● Take blood-thinners or other medicines that can lead to bleeding
● Live or work in areas with air pollution
What are the symptoms of stroke?
● Weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, typically on one side of the body
● Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
● Trouble with vision, including dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes
● Dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
● Fainting or seizure
● Sudden, severe headache
How can I prevent or reduce my risk of stroke?
● Choose healthy food options, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
● Keep a healthy weight
● Stay active. The surgeon general recommends adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week.
● Quit smoking
● Limit alcohol intake
● Talk to your doctor about how to control or treat medical conditions that increase your risk, including cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
When to act FAST
The acronym FAST is an easy way to remember the signs and symptoms of stroke:
F-Face. One side of the face is numb, drooping, or smile is uneven when the person smiles
A-Arms. One arm is weak, numb, or drifts downward when asked to raise both arms.
S-Speech. Slurred speech or difficulty speaking.
T-Time. If someone shows any of these symptoms, it’s time to call 9-1-1. Make note of when symptoms first appeared.
Save Your Skin
A top dermatologist gives her top tips for protecting South Asian skin from the sun
When she was growing up, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mona Mislankar remembers being told to stay out of the sun, but recalls that sunscreen wasn’t a big part of the skin-saving conversation. But the product is essential in the battle against hyperpigmentation and anti-aging, the two requests she gets most often from South Asian patients.
Most importantly, the right sunscreen also protects from skin cancer and sunburn. While skin cancer is less prevalent in communities of color, when it is diagnosed, it can be more advanced and more difficult to treat, so it’s still important to protect your skin when spending time in the sun. Here are Dr. Mislankar’s tips for doing just that:
- Go Broad. Look for the words “broad spectrum” on the label, which means the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. “UVA, which makes up 95% of UV radiation, penetrates deep into the skin, and is responsible for aging,” explains Dr. Mislankar. “UVB radiation is responsible for sunburns and is carcinogenic, being responsible for the majority of skin cancers.”
- Get SPF Smart. SPF only refers to the protection given from UVB radiation and the number refers to how long it takes to burn the skin. SFP 15 only blocks 93% of rays, while SPF 50 blocks nearly 98%. While most dermatologists recommend at least SPF 30, she advises SPF 50 for those worried about hyperpigmentation.
- Re-Apply Often. Sunscreen’s protection wanes over time, so if you’re in the sun, you should re-apply every two hours if possible, says Dr. Mislanker. A shot glass-sized amount of product should cover the body, while a nickel-sized amount should be perfect for the face.
- Test Them Out. Physical sunscreens, made from minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, provide excellent protection from the sun, but can leave a whitish hue on skin—though today’s formulations tend to be better. Chemical sunscreens on the other hand like oxybenzone can be effective and transparent, but can cause allergies in some. Dr. Mislanker suggests trying a few types to determine what suits you. “The best sunscreen for you is the one that you like and are most likely to use daily,” she says.
New children’s books about astronaut Sunita Williams take kids on interstellar adventures
During her time stationed on the International Space Station, astronaut Sunita Williams broke records for the most spacewalks by a woman, and the most spacewalk time for a woman—exceeding 50 hours.
The daughter of Mumbai Indian American Deepak Pandya and Slovene American Ursuline Bonnie Zalokar Pandya, Williams also ran the very first marathon in space, as an entrant for the 2007 Boston Marathon. With a host of new books, children across the world can celebrate her space adventures, and keep dreaming big.
Little Tail, Big Tales: The Adventures of an Astronaut’s Dog, Gorby and His Two and Four Legged Friends
Written by Bonnie Pandya, the mother of Sunita Williams, this new book showcases “Suni,” about to head to space for a 6-month stay on the International Space Station, and her best friend, a Jack Russelll terrier named Gorby. From space, Suni must help her friend stay out of trouble and teach him the wonders of the stars.
Suni Goes to Space
Available in India, this Little Leaders book is a beautifully illustrated rendition of Sunita’s journey to space. The story traces how Suni first hears of Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon, and her wonder on how he got there — ladder? balloon? bird? But when she discovers it was via spacecraft, she’s inspired to get there herself.
Gutsy Girls Go For Science: Astronauts: With Stem Projects for Kids
Perfect for older kids (aged 8 to 11), this collection explores the adventures of women astronauts including Sunita Williams. The book offers hands-on projects like building rovers and rockets, and a model of the International Space Station itself. Everything uses simple supplies, but gives girls the hands-on approach to help them succeed in any science career.