The National Stroke Association reports that approximately 80% of strokes are preventable. Why? Many of the risk factors for heart disease also contribute to stroke. That’s because stroke is caused by a blockage in or breakdown of blood vessels in the brain. These conditions are often caused by poor cardiac health.
Ten Strategies for Preventing Stroke
Patients can take ten steps to reduce their risk of stroke. Note that many of these tips require healthy diet and regular exercise:
- Know your blood pressure. If it’s high, the doctor may recommend changes in diet and exercise, and possibly prescribe a blood pressure medication.
- Find out if you have atrial fibrillation. This condition can cause blood to pool in the chambers of the heart, where it can clot. These clots can reenter the blood stream and cause stroke. Doctors can easily check for the condition by taking a patient’s pulse.
- Quit smoking. Smoking doubles a patient’s risk of stroke. It also contributes to multiple cardiopulmonary diseases.
- If you drink alcohol, use moderation. Drinking up to two alcoholic drinks per day can cut a person’s stroke risk, but more than that actually raises the risk by half.
- Monitor cholesterol closely. Cholesterol is literally a type of soft, waxy fat in the bloodstream. Patients with high cholesterol will need to adapt their diet and make exercise a part of the routine.
- Keep close watch on blood sugar and other indicators if you are diabetic. Diabetes can elevate a patient’s risk, especially if the symptoms are not managed. Discuss dietary and exercise options with a doctor or nutritionist.
- Exercise on a regular basis. Choose a daily activity that you can enjoy with a friend or family member. Walking, swimming, and bike riding are all great options, as are activities like yoga and tai chi.
- Reduce the fat and sodium in your diet. Cutting down on these lowers blood pressure, which in turn lowers risk for stroke. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains, along with a moderate amount of protein is usually best.
- Address circulation problems. Conditions like sickle cell anemia and artherosclerosis can interfere with the way the heart delivers blood throughout the body. Many of these conditions can be treated.
- Know the symptoms of a stroke. Two million brain cells die each second during a stroke. Timing is critical. If you have sudden numbness, confusion, trouble speaking, blindness in one or both eyes, dizziness, or sudden inexplicable headache, see a medical provider immediately.