According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Age is the single most important risk factor for stroke.” There are many things we can do to help mitigate the factors that so often accompany the aging process and which contribute to an increased risk of stroke as we get older.
Don’t wait until you are approaching retirement to begin working to reduce your risk of stroke. Many of the best ways to protect yourself can begin when you are quite young. Others can still improve your chances even if you start working on them late in life.
Don’t use marijuana
The American Heart Association warned this month of the “potential for serious cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use.” Such cardiovascular events may include heart attacks, strokes and other complications. As marijuana has become more and more socially accepted, there may be an assumption that it is safe. But if you want to reduce your risk of stroke and other damage to your circulatory system, marijuana use is probably not the best idea.
Don’t use tobacco
Smoking and other tobacco use can adversely affect your health in many ways, not the least of which is damage to your circulatory system. Tobacco damages your blood vessels and increases your blood pressure, both of which can increase your risk of stroke. If you use tobacco, stop now. If you don’t, don’t start.
Avoid secondhand smoke
Secondhand smoke can be as bad, if not worse, than actually smoking, especially if you are around it all day and night. Make every effort to avoid secondhand smoke, including urging others to quit smoking and insisting that smokers take their habit outdoors.
Don’t drink in excess
The CDC recommends no more than 1 drink a day for women and two for men, because drinking in excess can increase your risk of stroke by hardening arteries and raising blood pressure.
Reduce your sodium intake
Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure, leading to a higher risk of stroke. Don’t wait for a cardiovascular event to strike before taking steps to lower your sodium intake.
Pay attention to your fat intake
What are the right fats, and how much is too much? Diets high in certain fats, including trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol, may contribute to your risk of stroke. Ask your doctor about your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and how much fat you should be consuming regularly.
Get out and move
Too many of us live a sedentary lifestyle, moving far too little to maintain optimum health. You don’t have to be an athlete to stay healthy, but you do need to move. Walking or riding a recumbent trike are a couple of the best and safest forms of exercise for most people, and can help protect you from a stroke if you do them regularly.
Reach a healthier weight
No matter how overweight you are, even a small move down the scale can make a big change in your overall health. Strive to lose just 10 percent of your excess weight. That’s an attainable goal almost anyone can manage. Once you reach that, set a new goal and work from there.
Lower your blood pressure
Many of the suggestions above can help to lower your blood pressure to a healthy level, but they may not be enough. Your doctor may be able to help you with medication or additional lifestyle changes.
If you have diabetes, control it
Diabetes can significantly increase your risk of a cardiovascular event. Help lower your risk of stroke by controlling your diabetes. Your doctor can provide you with lots of ways to manage your diabetes, stay healthier and live longer.
Monitor heart disease
If you have any form of heart disease, you may be at an increased risk of stroke due to the likelihood of clots or plaque coming loose and lodging in your brain. The best way to decrease a complication from your existing heart disease is to monitor it regularly with your doctor.
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