Almost 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke every year and more than 130,000 of those will die from complications of a stroke according to The American Stroke Association. Whether by a blockage or a rupture, a stroke can stop the required flow of blood to all parts of the brain. The brain is a very complex organ and when the blood supply is cut off to a certain part of the brain the functions that part of the brain controlled will no longer work properly, if at all.
Many factors can play into having a stroke and while some are hereditary or a secondary complication of another body process, there are lifestyle choices that can significantly raise your risk of stroke. So when looking to reduce your risk of a stroke let’s take a look at what you can do today.
10 Tips for Preventing and Reducing Your Risk of Stroke
- Control your high blood pressure! High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and a risk factor you can do something about. Get a quick check up and talk to your health care provider about where your blood pressure is and what you can do to get it where it should be.
- Quit smoking. There are dozens of reasons to stop smoking and preventing a stroke should be near the top of your list. A person who smokes is twice as likely to die from a stroke as a person who does not smoke as nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damages your cardiovascular system.
- Eat right. Studies show that diets with five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day may reduce your risk of stroke. But an even better first step is to get rid of the bad foods in your diet. They include foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, salt and excess calories.
- Get active. The more active you are the stronger and more efficient your heart muscle becomes and it can circulate the same amount of blood in fewer beats which means lower risk for heart attack and stroke. Additionally, regular physical activity lowers the risk of developing illnesses like obesity, coronary artery disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, all of which raise your risk of having a stroke.
- Stay lean. A recent study by Columbia University researchers showed that people with abdominal obesity are at higher risk of a stroke caused by a blockage or constriction of the blood vessels in the brain, the most common type of stroke. This was true for both men and women regardless of race or ethnicity and carried the highest risk for people under 65.
- Don’t get diabetes. Diabetes can be an independent risk factor for stroke but diabetes also tends to involve high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and obesity which are all conditions that together greatly increase your risk for a stroke. If you have diabetes make sure it is controlled as directed and that you are working at removing the factors that led to diabetes.
- Watch your blood pressure. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. It is also the most controllable risk factor. Again, you need to eat right, get active, stay lean, don’t smoke and effectively lower your blood pressure if it becomes high.
- Get your cholesterol in check. There are two kinds of cholesterol and you need to keep them at healthy levels as high blood cholesterol is a major risk for stroke. Reduce your fact intake to 20 to 35% of your daily calories, choose healthy fats found mainly in vegetable oils, nuts and fishes, and limit your intake of saturated (found mainly in red meat and high-fat dairy products) and trans fats (shortening, hard margarines, fast foods and pre-packaged foods).
- Prevent carotid and peripheral artery disease. Carotid artery disease occurs when the carotid arteries in your neck become narrowed or blocked. Clots in these arteries can lead to stroke. Peripheral artery disease is the most common disease of the arteries and it is caused by build-up of fatty material within the vessels, also called hardening of the arteries as the artery gradually becomes blocked, narrowed or weakened. The more risk factors you have for a stroke the more risk factors you have for carotid and peripheral artery disease so you take the same steps to prevent them.
- Make better daily choices. So that means eat more varieties of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Include lean meats, fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat milk products. And of course, don’t forget lose weight, stop smoking and stay active. All these are directly linked to small choices you make every day. Create a list of your better choices and put them up somewhere you can check them off every day and see what a difference it makes.
BONUS TIP: See your doctor and take her advice. You can’t tell by looking in the mirror that you have peripheral artery disease or diabetes. There might be some clues reflecting back at you but you still need to have regular check up to make sure your body is performing at its best and get answers to any questions you may have.
Your doctor wants you to be happy and well so when she gives you a recommendation, trust her and do your best to follow her instructions. When given medication, take it as prescribed and be sure to discuss how long you need to take it and what you can do to ensure you won’t need it anymore.
Taking these steps not only reduce your risks of stroke but improve your health overall, reducing your risk for countless other health problems. Make a commitment to yourself and start today.