Reducing Your Stroke Risk
Many risk factors for having a stroke are beyond our control and can inherently put us at risk while others can be controlled and managed with the help of a medical professional or through diet and exercise. Some of the risk factors include:
- Being age 55 or older
- Having high blood pressure
- Being male
- Having a family history of heart disease
- Being African-American
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Having diabetes
- Carotid artery disease
- Having a family history of stroke
- Previous stroke
- Being overweight
- Previous episode of TIA (mini stroke)
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Having high cholesterol
Stroke Prevention Guidelines
Here are some steps that you can take to help prevent a stroke:
- Know your blood pressure (hypertension)
High blood pressure is a major stroke risk factor if left untreated. Have your blood pressure checked yearly by a doctor or at a health fair, a local pharmacy or supermarket or with an automatic blood pressure machine.
- Identify atrial fibrillation (Afib)
Afib is an abnormal heartbeat that can increase stroke risk by 500 percent. Afib can cause blood to pool in the heart and may form a clot and cause a stroke. A doctor must diagnose and treat Afib.
- Stop smoking
Smoking doubles the risk of stroke. It damages blood vessel walls, speeds up artery clogging, raises blood pressure and makes the heart work harder. Stopping smoking today will immediately begin to decrease your risk.
- Control alcohol use
Alcohol has been linked to stroke in many studies. Most doctors recommend not drinking or drinking in moderation – no more than two drinks per day. Remember that alcohol can negatively interact with other drugs you are taking.
- Know cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a fatty substance in blood that is made by the body. It also comes in food. High cholesterol levels can clog arteries and cause a stroke. See a doctor if your total cholesterol level is more than 200.
- Control diabetes
Many people with diabetes have health problems that are also stroke risk factors. Your doctor can prescribe a nutrition program, lifestyle changes, and medicine to help control your diabetes.
- Manage exercise and diet
Excess weight strains the circulatory system. Try to exercise five times a week and maintain a diet low in calories, salt, saturated and trans fats and cholesterol. Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
- Treat circulatory problems
Fatty deposits can block arteries carrying blood to the brain and can lead to a stroke. Other problems such as sickle cell disease or severe anemia should be treated.
- Act FAST at the first warning sign of a stroke
If you have any stroke symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.