Stroke can happen to anyone, however, certain risk factors can increase the chances of a stroke. In fact, studies show that up to 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented by working with a health care professional to reduce your personal risk. The following Stroke Prevention Guidelines will help you learn how you may be able to lower your risk for a stroke.
Know your blood pressure
High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke. If it is elevated, work with your doctor to keep it under control. Have your blood pressure checked at least once a year – more often if you have a history of high blood pressure. Consult your doctor if the higher number (your systolic blood pressure) is usually about 135 or if the lower number (your diastolic blood pressure) is usually over 85.
Find out if you have atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (Afib) is an abnormal heartbeat that can increase stroke risk by 500 percent. Afib can cause blood to collect in the chambers of your heart. This blood can form clots and cause a stroke. Your doctor can detect Afib and work with you to manage it properly.
If you smoke, stop
Smoking doubles the risk for stroke; it damages blood vessel walls, speeds up artery clogging, raises blood pressure and makes the heart work harder. If you stop smoking today, your risk for stroke will begin to decrease.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
Drinking a glass of wine or beer or one drink each day may lower your risk for stroke (provided there is no other medical reason you should avoid alcohol). Remember that alcohol is a drug – it can interact with other drugs you’re taking, and alcohol is harmful if taken in large doses. If you don’t drink, don’t start.
Know your cholesterol levels
High cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease, which may lead to stroke. If your total cholesterol level is more than 200, work with your doctor to control it through diet and exercise. Some individuals may require medication to control cholesterol. Lowering your total cholesterol may reduce your risk for stroke.
Many people with diabetes also have health problems that are stroke risk factors. If you are diabetic, learn more about your disease and follow your doctor’s recommendations carefully to control your diabetes. Your doctor can prescribe a nutrition plan, lifestyle changes and medicine that can help control your diabetes.
Manage your diet and exercise
Excess weight strains the circulatory system, which can increase the risk of stroke. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly may reduce your risk. Exercise at least five times a week for as little as 30 minutes a day – take a brisk walk, swim or find another activity you enjoy.
Maintain a healthy diet low in calories, salt, saturated and trans fats and cholesterol, and be sure to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Cutting down on sodium (salt) and fat in your diet may help lower your blood pressure and, most importantly, lower your risk for stroke.
Treat circulation problems
Ask your doctor if you have circulation problems. If so, work with your doctor to control them. Fatty deposits can block the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your brain. This kind of blockage can cause stroke. Sickle cell disease, severe anemia or other diseases can cause stroke if left untreated.
Recognize and treat Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
A Transient Ischemic Attack is a temporary episode of stroke-like symptoms that can last a few minutes to 24 hours, but usually causes no permanent damage or disability. TIA and stroke symptoms are the same. Recognizing and treating a TIA can reduce stroke risk. Up to 40 percent of people who experience a TIA may have an actual stroke. Most studies show that nearly half of all strokes occur within the first two days after a TIA.
If you or someone you know has a stroke, time is your enemy. The quicker you get to a hospital, the less damage the stroke can do to the brain. If you have any stroke symptoms or see them in someone else, even for a short time, call 9-1-1 or have someone take you to the hospital immediately.