Four Ways to Reduce Stroke
May is National Stroke Awareness Month, a great time to learn about the signs of stroke and the preventative measures you can take to ensure you’re not one of the 800,000 that occur each year. It’s the fifth leading cause of death in adults in the U.S., and a major factor for serious disabilities in those that survive.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke is caused by blocked blood flow to the brain and can affect a person’s speech, movement, memory and more. It’s important to know the signs of a stroke and get help quickly. Some of the warning signs include:
- Weakness in the face, arm or leg
- Difficulty speaking
- Vision loss
- Brief loss of consciousness
Anyone can have a stroke at any age, but almost three-quarters of all strokes happen in people over 65.
Certain factors can increase your chances of having a stroke, and an estimated 80% of them can be prevented by choosing a healthier lifestyle. Here are four steps you can take today to help reduce your risk of suffering a stroke.
Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a huge factor and can double or even quadruple your chances of stroke if not properly controlled. Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference people can make to their vascular health and overall risk level.
Your ideal goal should be to maintain a blood pressure of less than 120/80 if possible.
- Reduce the salt in your diet, ideally to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (about a half teaspoon).
- Increase polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in your diet, while avoiding foods high in saturated fats.
- Eat four to five cups of fruits and vegetables every day, one serving of fish two to three times a week and several daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy.
- Get more exercise — at least 30 minutes of activity a day, and more, if possible.
- If you’re a smoker, ditch the cigarettes. Smoking not only leads to higher blood pressure, it also thickens your blood and increases the amount of plaque buildup in your arteries.
Be Aware of Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. Those clots can then travel to the brain, producing a stroke.
If you have atrial fibrillation, get it treated as soon as possible. The condition carries one of the highest stroke risks next to diabetes and high blood pressure.
- If you have symptoms, such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath, see your doctor for an exam.
- You may need to take an anticoagulant drug or one of the newer direct-acting anticoagulant drugs to reduce your stroke risk from atrial fibrillation. Speak with your primary care provider for more information.
Treat Your Diabetes
Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them. By keeping your blood sugar under control and following your doctor’s orders carefully, you’re already taking a huge step in reducing your stroke risk.
- Monitor your blood sugar as directed by your doctor.
- Use diet, exercise and medicines to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.
Live a Healthier Life
From lowered blood pressure to healthier arteries and lower risk of blood clots, making overall healthier life choices can ensure that, as your body ages, your risk for stroke is severely lowered.
- Exercise regularly. At least 30 minutes daily helps keep your heart pumping, blood flowing and your stroke chances reduced.
- Drink in moderation. While studies have shown that red wine and an occasional imbibement can help lower your blood pressure, overindulging can actually increase your overall risk for stroke and a myriad of other diseases and conditions.
- Lose weight. Obesity is a major factor for a number of heart risks, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Stop smoking. Smoking not only leads to higher blood pressure, it also thickens your blood and increases the amount of plaque buildup in your arteries.
- Eat healthier. Foods low in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting sodium in your diet can also lower your blood pressure.
When it Comes to Spotting a Stroke, BEFAST
It’s important to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of someone having a stroke. By acting quickly and calling 911, you can help reduce the risks of long-term and fatal damage before it’s too late.
Live a Healthier Life Now!
Make May your month to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider for an annual exam and ensure you’re on the right track to a healthier life; your brain and heart will thank you!