Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States. But can you prevent a stroke?
Strokes can also cause long-term disability. While stroke risk factors increase with age, they can still affect anyone at any time.
However, the National Stroke Association suggests that 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented. Read on to learn more about how you can prevent a stroke.
First of all, what is a stroke?
A stroke happens when there’s not enough blood getting to your brain. The supply of blood going to your brain might get blocked in the large blood vessels that lead to your brain. Or, blood vessels around your brain tissue could burst.
Sometimes, a stroke is a massive brain attack. Other times, it could last a short time — 30 minutes or less. This is called a mini-stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
Regardless of the type, all strokes need immediate medical treatment and care. If at any time you or a loved one are experiencing sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, seek medical help immediately.
Here are some things you can do today to lower your risk of having a stroke.
Maintain a healthy diet
Changing your diet to include plenty of vegetables, fruits and lean proteins, along with fiber-rich foods such as whole grain breads and beans, can help reduce your cholesterol and lower blood pressure, which are two major indicators of stroke risk. A healthy diet that is low in saturated fats and trans fats can also decrease your risk for obesity and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Get regular physical activity
Physical activity can also help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Even a brisk 30-minute walk each day can improve your health and prevent a stroke.
Cigarette smoking can double your risk of having a stroke. While it isn’t an easy habit to quit, your primary care provider can provide you with resources to help you.
Limit your alcohol intake
Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, increasing your risk for a stroke. In fact, just drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day can put you at significantly higher risk.
Check your cholesterol levels
Your cholesterol should be checked by your primary care provider at least once every five years. It is a simple blood test that can reveal a lot about your risks for stroke and heart disease. If you have high cholesterol, there are medications and lifestyle changes that can help lower it as well as reduce your risk of stroke.
Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure can come with no symptoms, which can make it difficult to recognize without having regular checks. Your primary care provider can advise you on how often you should check your blood pressure. This can be done at home with a blood pressure monitor, at a pharmacy or at your provider’s office. If you have high blood pressure, you might be prescribed medicine or need to make changes to lifestyle or diet, including limiting your salt intake.
Recognize and treat heart disease
Certain heart conditions, like coronary artery disease or atrial fibrillation (Afib), can increase your risk of stroke. Your primary care provider may suggest medications or other treatments to manage your heart health. Addressing your heart problems early and with proper care can help you prevent a stroke.
Manage your diabetes
If you think you might have symptoms of diabetes, it is important to get tested. People with diabetes need to check their blood sugar levels regularly. So, talk with your primary care provider about treatment options if you have diabetes. They may recommend certain lifestyle changes, such as getting more physical activity or choosing healthier foods. These actions will help keep your blood sugar under control and help you lower your risk for stroke.
Can you prevent a stroke? Work with your health care team
Ultimately, the best way to prevent a stroke is to work with your primary care provider to recognize and address any health issues! Make sure to take any medications prescribed by your provider on a regular basis and follow their instructions on how to manage any existing medical conditions. And if you’ve already had a stroke or TIA, your health care team will work with you to prevent further strokes.
So, can you prevent a stroke? Simple healthy changes can definitely go a long way to preventing a stroke and lead to an overall healthier you!