Single-Handedly #3: Stroke Isn’t Always the End of Life

By Friends & Neighbors February 15, 2017 14:14

Read the full story of Charlie (a pseudonym used to protect her privacy) in the Winter 2016-’17 issue of Friends and Neighbors Magazine, available at these locations and many more. Read more from Charlie online in Readers’ Journal.

By Charlie Rioux


This is my final blog entry about my stroke experience. Almost five years have gone by and I wanted to talk about two surprising reactions I experienced from people when they learned I had a stroke; plus to talk about risks and preventions individuals can or should take to avoid triggering a similar health emergency.

First is the look of surprise: “You’re still alive!”  Suggesting most people do not understand stroke.

While stroke was the number five cause of death behind heart disease and cancer, it kills more than 130,000 Americans each year ( Someone dies from a stroke every four minutes in the United States. It is also a prominent cause of disability as a result of the physical impairments survivors are left with.

And the second: “But you are so young!”

Okay, 51 is still young, but risk factors are truly what matters.  The good news, according to the National Stroke Association, 80 percent of strokes can be prevented, so I feel stupid to have had a stroke.

Age is a factor; after the age of 55 your risk doubles every decade.  Your gender and ethnicity may also be factors.

Stroke risk factors and prevention have been publicized by the Center for Disease Control, American Heart Association, and the National Stroke Association(

Behavioral and lifestyle risk factors YOU can control include:

  • Smoking – give up the butts, they are not worth the cost and trouble later in life.
  • Nutrition – a poor diet (too much fat or processed food, not enough fresh fruits and vegetables).
  • Not enough exercise – even walking helps, get out and move.
  • Obesity – especially excess abdominal fat, resulting from poor nutrition and lack of exercise.
  • Stress – work/life balance matters; you should work to live, I was guilty of living to work.

But there are some risks or conditions you have less control over and may be receiving treatment for, such as:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Atherosclerosis – both smoking and high cholesterol contribute to artery plaque. Get tested.
  • Hereditary risks – high cholesterol, high blood pressure,
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease

So yes, I am still young and still alive, so stroke does not always equate to end of life.

But how you care for yourself really does matter.  Choices you make now can improve your quality of life in the future and reduce your risks for a brain or heart attack.

Today because I am afraid of having dementia or other neuro-degenerative conditions, I have been reading about the link between healthy gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth cause of death in the US.  This is not news, as many doctors and researchers have tied physical, mental, and neuro health to intestinal health, even referring to the gut as our second brain. Probiotics and good nutrition are key preventions by creating and maintaining healthy gut bacteria. To learn more, look up Dr. David Perlmutter’s research and ideas about the health and influence of the gut microbiome on your brain.

Or, Dr. Daniel Amen’s thoughts on how the health of your gut influences potential for depression, anxiety, and aging.

Be proactive, and take charge of your health today, just do it.

Stay strong and don’t give up.

To your health!


Charlie Rioux of Angels Camp is a stroke survivor who hopes her experiences and insights will help others who are recovering from a stroke. 


By Friends & Neighbors February 15, 2017 14:14
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