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Stroke and Emergency Workers

12 November 2020
Stroke and Emergency Workers

Funny thing happens to you when you retire from one the safety forces.  You leave an active clan of some of the strongest, toughest, bravest individuals on the planet.  Awaiting you with open arms is the “retired clan”, who are eager to tell you stories about how they were stronger, tougher and braver than any newbie working the job today.  While the merits of either group will surely never be adjudicated with any degree of satisfaction, what we can say with certainty is that goals of each group are vastly different.  The younger members have the goal of building their health and wealth, while the retired members are just trying to maintain it. 

When I speak with the retired members, inevitably conversations arise as to the failing health of one member or another.  Recently, I had been surprised to learn that members who I had worked with had suffered a stroke, therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to look into it a little deeper in the hopes it might lessen the chances of anyone reading this from succumbing to this dire fate.

As a quick refresher, a stroke occurs when circulation to the brain becomes impaired.  Strokes can be separated into two categories; those caused by blockages in the neck or brain and those caused by bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).  The blockages can further be divided into a thrombosis, embolism or stenosis and when combined account for over 80% of all strokes.

We do have two excellent courses on stroke here at csutest.com.

Stroke ranks as the fourth leading killer in the United States causing a death every four minutes.  According to the CDC, each year roughly 795,000 individuals suffer a stroke, making it the most common cause of adult disability. Also noteworthy is that the risk of stroke doubles every decade between the ages of 55 and 85, with smokers and those suffering from high blood pressure and obesity being at greatest risk.

Such risk factors for strokes as well as heart disease are generally well known, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and limiting alcohol and tobacco products. So what else can we do right now, today, to lower your chances of suffering a stroke?

I do two simple things daily to improve my chances of not suffering a stroke. First, I slam a large glass of water upon awakening, which turns out to be a long standing tradition in Japan. What you may not know is that your blood is actually thicker or more viscous in the morning, and if you are dehydrated, even more so, suggesting likely blood flow impairment. Studies show that half of stroke patients that were admitted arrived dehydrated and those who were hydrated had much better outcomes. So have your coffee, but water first.

Secondly, I try to maintain an overall chill attitude. High blood pressure is the single greatest risk factor for stroke. I know that can be a challenge during this current election cycle, but it is not worth bursting an aneurysm. A few things you may wish to try is slowing your breathing down if you start to feel anxious. As mentioned in my previous post, mindful breathing can indeed have a positive effect on your stress levels and blood pressure.  A little gratitude practice here and there during the day may also benefit you as well as those around you.  As it turns out, gratitude can lower both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure, while and rest and under times of stress. It is actually good medicine and I may likely do an entire post on gratitude in the near future.

So in short, if you want to live a happy and healthy life, drink and be chill. All the best.

bio photo

Lieutenant Michael "Sporty" Kilbane

Michael Kilbane is a retired officer from the Cleveland Fire Department having served for over 35 years.

In that time, he has spearheaded many efforts to advance the betterment of the division through wellness initiatives and grants. He has also authored a pamphlet on maintaining back strength and health for firefighters.  Mr. Kilbane’s education includes an undergraduate degree in both Philosophy and Natural Health, along with master’s level coursework in both Physiology and Philosophy.  He is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is recognized through that organization as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. As a trained massotherapist, Mr. Kilbane has also witnessed literally first hand the damage done to first responders by over straining in some of the most hostile work environments. His most recent focus is utilizing kettle bells for functional training and is the author of The Athletes Ultimate Guide to Kettlebell Training.

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