John Singleton

Source: StarterCAM / Radio One

Oscar-nominated director and screenwriter John Singleton long struggled with high blood pressure

and suffered a massive stroke less than two weeks ago. He died Monday after being removed from life support, his publicist said. He was 51.

Brain, neural network

Source: Science Photo Library – PASIEKA / Getty

A stroke, or “brain attack,” occurs when blood circulation to the brain fails. According to the American Heart Association – African-Americans have the highest prevalence of high blood pressure, a primary risk factor for stroke and heart disease.

What are Warning Signs of a Stroke?

Warning signs are clues your body sends that your brain is not receiving enough oxygen. If you observe one or more of these signs of a stroke or “brain attack,” don’t wait, call a doctor or 911 right away!

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, or trouble talking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Other danger signs that may occur include: double vision, drowsiness, and nausea or vomiting. Sometimes the warning signs may last only a few moments and then disappear.

What are Risk Factors for a Stroke?

Age. Stroke occurs in all age groups. Studies show the risk of stroke doubles for each decade between the ages of 55 and 85. But strokes also can occur in childhood or adolescence.

Gender. Men have a higher risk for stroke in young and middle age, but rates even out at older ages, and more women die from stroke. Men generally do not live as long as women, so men are usually younger when they have their strokes and therefore have a higher rate of survival.

Race. People from certain ethnic groups have a higher risk of stroke. For African Americans, stroke is more common and more deadly—even in young and middle-aged adults—than for any ethnic or other racial group in the United States.

Family history of stroke. Stroke seems to run in some families. Several factors may contribute to familial stroke. Members of a family might have a genetic tendency for stroke risk factors, such as an inherited predisposition for high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes. The influence of a common lifestyle among family members also could contribute to familial stroke.

What Are the Treatable Risk Factors?

Hypertension is by far the most potent risk factor for stroke. Hypertension causes a two-to four-fold increase in the risk of stroke before age 80. If your blood pressure is high, you and your doctor need to work out an individual strategy to bring it down to the normal range.

Tray of fresh vegetables and salads , ready to BBQ

Source: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty

Some ways that work:

  1. Maintain proper weight.
  2. Avoid drugs known to raise blood pressure.
  3. Eat right: cut down on salt and eat fruits and vegetables to increase potassium in your diet.
  4. Exercise more.
  5. Your doctor may prescribe medicines that help lower blood pressure. Controlling blood pressure will also help you avoid heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure.

We gotta do better to keep our health in check. Your health is an investment, not an expense!