According to the National Stroke Association, 80% of all strokes can be prevented if proper measures are taken. Adopting a healthy lifestyle as well as consulting your physician are the best steps a person can take to prevent a stroke. For those who have had a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), following the care of your physician as well as eating healthy and exercising may help you avoid another stroke. Here are 10 tips that you can take to reduce your risks of having a stoke:
Lowering blood pressure. Since high blood pressure is a major stroke risk, eat a balanced diet and exercise to lower blood pressure. Know what your ideal numbers are, and strive to reach and maintain them. Blood pressure, if managed, can reduce your chances of a stroke, dramatically.
Have an atrial fibrillation (Afib) checkup. The majority of Americans over 40 are at a higher risk of having Afib. Atrial Fibrillation is an abnormal heartbeat that can increase a person’s risk of stroke by up to 5 times. Having Afib can cause blood to pool in from the heart which then may for clots and cause a stroke.
If you’ve been diagnosed with having Afib, you can beat your odds of having a stroke by being aware of stroke symptoms and knowing how to respond and the available treatments used to control Afib. Taking preventive steps by self-testing for an irregular heartbeat with the Check Your Pulse technique can also reduce your risk of a stroke. Always discuss your risk for Afib and stroke with your doctor.
Identify and treat circulation problems. By having regular check ups, your doctor can check to see if you are having problems in circulation – supplying blood to your brain. Fatty deposits (caused by a hardening or build up of cholesterol plaque and other fatty deposits in the arteries) and other diseases can block the arteries that will restrict the blood flow from your heart to your brain. These arteries, called vertebral and carotid, are arteries that are located on each side of your neck.
Getting tested for this problem by your doctor and receiving treatment with medicine (following it exactly as prescribed) can reduce your risk of having a stroke.
Treat obstructive sleep apnea. If you are sensing that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is present, have your doctor screen you by performing an overnight oxygen assessment. If detected, OSA may be treated by giving you oxygen at night by wearing a mask or by wearing a small device in your mouth.
Lower cholesterol and saturated fat intake. Eating foods with less cholesterol, saturated and trans fats, will reduce the fatty deposits (plaque) in your arteries. If changing your diet alone isn’t enough to lower your cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe a medication that will help control your cholesterol levels.
Increase you vegetable and fruit intake. A healthy diet can take the body a long way. It is very important to eat foods that are low in saturated and trans fats such as lean meats (fish and chicken), low-fat dairy products and limiting the number of egg yolks. Bake, broil, grill or steam your food instead of frying. Add fiber to your diet by increasing your whole grains and/or beans, vegetable and fruit intake. It is reported by the Mayo Clinic that a diet containing five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of stroke.
Exercise Regularly. Exercises such as aerobic or “cardio” reduces your risk of stroke in many ways. Exercise will increase your level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol), lower your blood pressure, and improve the overall health of your blood vessels and heart. It also helps with losing weight which can control diabetes and reduces stress. Walking, jogging, bicycling or swimming performed at least four times a week can be very beneficial to your body.
Controlling your diabetes. According to the National Stroke Association, as many as 2 out of 3 adults with diabetes have high blood pressure. Heart attack and atrial fibrillation (Afib) are also common among people with diabetes, and all increase the risk for stroke.
Both types of diabetes, Type I and Type II, can be controlled by monitoring the blood sugar, taking medication, and most importantly by changing eating habits and exercising more on a regular basis.
Alleviate stress. Maya Lambiase, author of a study (published in Journal Stroke) and a behavioral medicine researcher states, “everyone has some anxiety from time to time and when it is elevated and chronic, it may affect your vasculature years down the road.” This is very true. Stress, as a whole, is a major factor in many of the diseases we see today.
Experts say that chronic anxiety will lead to a set of biochemical reactions that flood the body with cortisol (stress hormone) which then makes active the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal/HPA axis. This system (the HPA axis) works to regulate stress and other bodily functions but when over stimulated for a prolonged time, it can impair the vascular system, including the brain blood vessels which will increase the risk of stroke.
To alleviate stress from your life can take many forms but all are motivated by one factor, and that is to relax. You can find classes on how to alleviate stress or you can set out and experiment with many techniques that are available until you find one that works best for you. Here are a couple of websites that can help take you in that direction: (Reduce Stress – Dr. Weil) and (helpguide.org/stressmanagement).
Quit smoking. Smoking and/or being exposed to secondary smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood which causes the heart to work harder and allows blood clots to form easily. Smoking can also increase build up in arteries which blocks the flow of blood to the brain, causing a stroke. So it is extremely important, if you are a smoker, to quit smoking if you wish to lower your risk of a stroke.