I’ve always shared a close bond with my four big brothers — Ronald,
Michael, Jeffrey and Eric. After my dad passed, they became my male
role models.

In particular, I’ve always been close to Eric. We’re often mistaken as twins.

Recently, Eric celebrated his 50th birthday.

You may wonder why that’s a big deal.

Eric almost missed this milestone event because he suffered a stroke roughly a year ago.

Sadly, he had plenty of company.

700,000 Americans suffer strokes annually. In the African American
community, strokes occur more frequently, resulting in more deaths.

a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or burst, a stroke occurs.
Starved of sufficient blood and oxygen, part of the brain begins to
die. Because brain damage can be immediate, it’s critical that stroke
victims seek treatment quickly.

When Eric’s stroke occurred, he experienced slurred speech and was unable to stand. Luckily he received quick treatment.

good news is that the majority of stroke victims, like my brother,
survive. However, stroke victims are often at risk of having another
stroke. Therefore, prevention is key.

“All people can take steps
to lower their risk for stroke, whether they have had a stroke or not,”
says the Centers for Disease Control Web site. “Things you can do to
lower the risk of stroke include steps to prevent and control high
blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.”

preventative steps include, among other things, maintaining a healthy
weight, not smoking and consuming moderate amounts of alcohol.

Eric is not overweight and does not smoke or drink, his health habits
were poor. He worked long hours, frequently dined on fast foods and
exercised sporadically. Further, he was in the midst of relocating from
Atlanta to New York, adding more stress and elevating his cholesterol.

Although Eric sprinted a good race, his bad habits outpaced him.

brother is now healthy. The frequent fast-food trips are non-existent.
Today if he visits a fast-food restaurant, he picks from the grilled
items or salads, not the fried staples he once devoured regularly.

During the holidays, the occurrences for strokes (along with heart attacks & stress) escalate.

  • Here now are some Stroke Facts (provided by the CDC) to keep Qcity readers informed:For several decades the southeastern United States has had the
    highest stroke mortality rates in the nation. It is not completely
    clear what factors contribute to this.
  • Strokes can—and do—occur at ANY age. Nearly a quarter of strokes occur in people under the age of 65.
  • Stroke death rates are higher for African Americans than for whites, even at younger ages.
  • Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. More than 143,579 Americans die each year from strokes.
  • Strokes are a leading cause of long-term disability.
  • About 795,000 strokes occur in the United States each year. About
    610,000 are first or new strokes. About 185,000 occur in people who
    have had a previous stroke.
  • Nearly three-quarters of all
    strokes occur in people over age 65. The risk of having a stroke more
    than doubles each decade after the age of 55.
  • The direct and
    indirect costs of strokes will total nearly $68.9 billion this year,
    according to the American Heart Association.

Thankfully, my
brother suffered no side effects. His current lifestyle includes
regular exercise, balanced meals, less stress and spending more time
with his children. And he’s learned valuable lessons.

“We need to
change our diets and exercise,” he says. “I swim more and exercise
regularly. And I saw a dietician who planned a food strategy for me.”

Happy belated birthday, Eric. I love you!

Stay healthy. Stay well.

E. Z. Hines is an adjunct professor of health and wellness and is
certified to teach group fitness and Zumba. Email:

Sondra E. Z. Hines is an AFAA-certified group fitness instructor, Zumba instructor, workshop presenter and motivational speaker. A former adjunct professor, she has 15-plus years as a fitness instructor...

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