Seven Practical Strategies that Can Reduce Your Risk of Stroke
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and it is more prevalent among African Americans than among other races.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing tissues from getting necessary oxygen and nutrients, which kills the brain cells. Although you can’t do anything about some risk factors like age and family history, many associated factors are well within your control. And there’s more good news because health experts say that nearly 80% of strokes can be prevented through lifestyle adjustments.
Here are seven easy, practical ways to reduce your risk of stroke.
1. Monitor and control your blood pressure.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for stroke, doubling or even quadrupling the risk if it is not controlled. Get your blood pressure checked by a medical professional at least once a year and work with them to lower it if your readings are high.
2. Treat cholesterol imbalance.
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) carries cholesterol, a fatty substance, through the bloodstream and delivers it to cells. Excess LDL can cause cholesterol to build up in blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis causes blood vessel narrowing, which leads to heart attack and stroke. If your LDL cholesterol is high, your medical provider can help you create a plan to reduce it. Treatment includes proper diet, exercise, and medication, if necessary.
3. Stay within a healthy weight range.
Being overweight or obese raises your odds of having a stroke. Talk to your doctor or find a body mass index (BMI) calculator online to get an idea of what a healthy weight is for you. If you are overweight, losing as little as ten pounds can have a significant impact on your stroke risk.
4. Get moving.
Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, two primary stroke risk factors. Aim to exercise at a moderate intensity (e.g. brisk walking) for approximately 30 minutes most days of the week.
5. If you drink, do it in moderation.
Drinking a little alcohol is okay and some data shows moderate alcohol consumption (about one drink per day) may even decrease your risk of stroke. However, once you exceed two drinks per day, the risk rises sharply. If you drink alcohol, use it sparingly.
6. Treat and manage chronic illnesses.
Neglecting chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease can dramatically increase your risk of stroke. High blood sugar, for example, damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them. If you have any chronic conditions, work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan. Eating a balanced diet, exercising, and managing stress, along with taking any prescribed medications, are common elements of treatment plans.
7. Quit smoking.
Smoking accelerates clot formation by thickening the blood and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes for reducing stroke risk. If you smoke, ask your doctor for advice on the most appropriate way for you to quit.
Education is key when it comes to stroke prevention. If certain risk factors are sabotaging your health and possibly predisposing you to stroke, take the necessary steps to correct them.
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