If you think a stroke won’t happen to you, you’re mistaken.
According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) data in 2020, 1 in 6 deaths from cardiovascular disease was due to stroke. It’s also a leading cause of disability (the loss of part or all of your ability to move or speak).
But what is a stroke? A stroke happens when the blood flow to your brain is cut off, which can be caused by clots or a ruptured vessel. This lack of blood flow kills brain cells and can result in permanent damage ranging from paralysis to speech impairment, or even death.
As scary as it sounds, here are some steps you can take to prevent this frightening disease.
1. Watch your Weight
Obesity and excess weight increases your risk of stroke. An important first step is talking to your doctor about your body mass index (BMI) and weight-related health risks. A healthy BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9, but it does not take into account where your body fat is located on your body or what type of fat you have.
To lose weight to lower the risk of stroke:
- Maintain current weight if already at or below healthy weight range for height.
- Prevent further weight gain if currently above healthy BMI range (but still within recommended obesity range).
- Lose 5% to 10% of current body weight over 6 months if currently above recommended obesity range (BMI >30).
Use diet and exercise together to achieve this goal. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new diet plan or exercise program.
2.Manage high Blood pressure
You can help lower your blood pressure by following these steps:
- Lose excess pounds and watch your waistline. Excess weight increases the workload of your heart, causes high blood pressure and raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Reducing your body weight by 10 percent or more can cut your risk in half.
- Eat a healthy, low-sodium diet. A diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat and sodium will help to lower blood pressure. Limit the amount of sodium you eat—no more than 2,300 milligrams a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt), with an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams per day for most adults.
- Focus on getting enough potassium and other minerals. In addition to lowering sodium intake, many people with high blood pressure benefit from increasing their intake of potassium—a mineral found abundantly in fruits and vegetables—and magnesium-rich foods such as whole grains.
- Exercise regularly. High blood pressure can be reduced by regular physical activity—30 minutes or more on most days of the week will do it.
- Avoid tobacco smoke
Tobacco smoke contains chemicals that are bad for health and especially damaging for those who already have high blood pressure. Smoking contributes extra strain on the heart, so you should stop smoking if you wish to lower your chances of a stroke.
4. Maintain Blood sugar levels
Diabetes is a condition in which your body cannot properly use and store food for energy. It can increase the risk of serious medical conditions such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.
If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar (glucose) level under control will help lower the risk of stroke.
- The American Diabetes Association recommends an A1C target below 7 percent for most adults with diabetes (find out what this means in terms of daily blood sugar levels).
5.Control Blood cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood that is produced by the liver and other cells in the body. If there are high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in your bloodstream, it can clog your arteries and lead to heart attack or stroke. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is known as good cholesterol because it helps remove LDL from the arteries—your HDL level should be high.
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and exercise, or prescribe medication (such as statins) that can lower both kinds of cholesterol and help to prevent strokes caused by blocked arteries.
6.Eat a Balanced Diet
One of the best things you can do to help prevent a stroke is to work with your doctor, a registered dietitian, and/or a nutrition specialist to create an eating plan that works for you.
Here are some basics:
- Eat more fiber (such as in fruit and vegetables).
- Choose foods that contain unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and canola oil (instead of saturated fat).
- Cut down on salt (sodium) in your diet.
- Monitor Alcohol intake
If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. According to the American Heart Association, that means no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
One drink equals:
- 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
- 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits, such as whiskey or gin (40% alcohol content).
Binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption may increase your risk for stroke.
- Manage your stress levels
Stress has been linked with an increased risk of stroke, so learn relaxation techniques that work for you — such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing exercises. Take time each day to do activities you enjoy — read a book, take a walk or spend time with friends or family members who make you laugh.”
- Exercise regularly
Regular exercise will help keep your weight in check and also improve your mood.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes [about 2 and a half hours] of moderate-intensity activity a week like taking a brisk walk or low-intensity aerobic exercise.
All these changes will have benefits beyond stroke reduction.
The changes you’ll make to prevent stroke will have other benefits too. When you stop smoking and reduce your alcohol intake, you’re also reducing the risk of heart attack, cancer, dementia and other health problems.
Talk with a healthcare provider about what might be best for you.