If you’re like most Americans, you plan your future. When you take a job, you examine its benefit plan. When you buy a home, you consider its location and condition so that your investment is safe. Today, more and more Americans are protecting their most important asset—their brain. Are you?
Stroke ranks as the fourth leading killer in the United States. A stroke can be devastating to individuals and their families, robbing them of their independence. It is the most common cause of adult disability. Each year approximately 795,000 Americans have a stroke, with about 160,000 dying from stroke-related causes.
So far we have shared with you two previous articles. With today being World Stroke Day we are releasing our final article, about ways to prevent stroke. We will look at different things that you can do to prevent having your first stroke, or a recurring one.
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Here are 10 ways to prevent stroke:
1. Lower your blood pressure
Experts say that 80% of strokes can be prevented. The single best way to prevent a stroke is to get your blood pressure in the healthy range. That means lower than 120/80. Healthy arteries are flexible, strong and elastic. Their inner lining is smooth so that blood flows freely, supplying vital organs and tissues with nutrients and oxygen.
Hypertension gradually increases the pressure of blood flowing through your arteries. As a result, you might experience damage to your brain by way of a stroke. High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled. “High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke in both men and women,” Dr. Rost says.
2. Maintain a healthy diet
Eating healthy food is an integral part of stroke prevention. Lowering the amount of fat (especially trans and saturated fats) you consume will reduce the risk of clots in arteries. If you have issues lowering your cholesterol level by diet alone, your doctor may need to prescribe medication.
There are many diets to choose from, but the one recommended for cardiovascular health (related to strokes) is the Mediterranean diet. It consists of many fruits and vegetables every day, fish (and other lean, white meats), nuts, olive oil, and whole grains. Also remember to reduce your salt intake, avoid red and fatty meats, and again, lower your intake of trans and saturated fats.
According to Food Revolution expert Michael Greger, MD, the best way to avoid suffering from a stroke is to eat a whole food, plant-based diet centered around vegetables, lentils, beans, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and nuts. But to get the full benefits, plant-strong eaters must have a regular, reliable source of B12 — meaning B12-fortified foods or supplements.
Another essential part of lowering your risk of stroke is regular exercise. For stroke prevention, you want to focus on cardiovascular exercises, including biking, jogging, and using an elliptical machine.
Cardio exercise lowers your blood pressure, increases good cholesterol in your body, and improves the resilience of your heart and arteries. These exercises also help you lose weight and lower your stress levels.
Jullie lowered her blood pressure naturally.It was 170/100. Now it’s 120/80.
Learn How Jullie Lowered her Blood Pressure Naturally.
The Surgeon General recommends two-and-a-half hours of moderate cardio exercise every week for adults. If you haven’t exercised in a while, you’ll want to start now with up to 30 minutes every day of a moderate activity, such as walking, riding a bike, or swimming.
Try to do this every day and make it a habit—like brushing your teeth.
Before starting any exercise routine, especially if you are recovering from a stroke or lead a sedentary life, consult your doctor. They can help you choose the best types of exercise for your current physical condition.
4. Quit smoking
There are no two ways about it: smoking is bad for you. If you want to prevent a stroke, quitting smoking is possibly the best thing you can do. Inhaling nicotine thickens your blood, making it more likely to clot; it also increases your blood pressure and reduces the amount of oxygen that makes it to your brain and other organs.
Smoking can cause aneurysms and is linked to heart disease, lung disease, and cancer. It increases your risk of ischemic attack twofold, and your risk of hemorrhagic stroke fourfold.
Smoking also causes atherosclerosis (fatty deposits) in the carotid artery, which is the main blood vessel to your brain. Atherosclerosis in the carotid artery is actually the main cause of stroke in the United States.
If you are a smoker and want to quit, your doctor can recommend programs and medication that help during your withdrawal period. The benefits of quitting smoking appear within just a few hours. And after 15 years of being smoke-free, your heart health is the same as someone who has never smoked.
5. Limit alcohol consumption
Alcohol consumption can either be a risk factor or a preventative measure. It all depends on how much you drink.
Heavy drinking is a risk factor; it increases your blood pressure and your risk of ischemic attack and hemorrhagic stroke. However, moderate drinking (one drink a day) actually prevents ischemic stroke and helps keep your blood free of clots.
A diabetes diagnosis is a risk factor for strokes. High blood sugar damages blood vessels, which makes it more likely that clots will form. Prevent strokes by keeping your diabetes under control. Follow your doctor’s and nutritionist’s instructions, monitor your blood sugar, and implement other lifestyle changes, such as exercise and a healthy diet.
7. Treat Atrial Fibrillation and other heart conditions
Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is an under-diagnosed and under-treated heart condition and a major risk factor for stroke.
AF causes the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria) to quiver instead of beating effectively, resulting in blood not being completely pumped out, which in turn causes pooling and can lead to clotting. These clots can travel to the brain and trigger a major and often fatal stroke. Stroke due to AF is highly preventable by anti-clotting drugs.
WSO (World Stroke Organization) recommends that persons who have experienced a heart attack, have been diagnosed with a heart ailment or have irregular heart rhythm, to regularly visit health services in order to prevent the occurrence of a stroke.
Researchers at the University of Alabama found a strong link between getting less than six hours of sleep and a greater incidence of stroke symptoms for people over 45.
9. Be more optimistic
According to scientists at Harvard University, people with sunny dispositions are far less likely to suffer from strokes or heart attacks. Studies found a 50% reduction in cardiovascular disease for those who scored highest for optimism and vitality.
10. Increase vitamin D levels
Low levels of vitamin D increase your risk of stroke. According to one study, low levels of vitamin D doubles the risk of stroke in Caucasians. You can increase your vitamin D levels with exposure to sun, supplementation, or by eating vitamin D-fortified foods.
Prevent Strokes By Being Healthy
Factors like age, gender, and ethnicity cannot be controlled, but remember that 80 percent of strokes are preventable via a healthy lifestyle.
A healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; a regular exercise routine; controlling conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes; and abstaining from smoking or heavy drinking are all part of a generally healthy lifestyle that can prevent not only strokes, but also a host of other conditions.
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