Stroke prevention can start today. Protect yourself and prevent stroke, regardless of your age or family history.
What can you do to prevent stroke? Age makes us more susceptible to having a stroke, as does having a mother, father, or other close relative who has had a stroke.
You can’t reverse the years or change your family history, but there are many other stroke risk factors that you can control—provided that you’re aware of them. Knowledge is power. If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk.
How to prevent stroke
1. Treat atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. Those clots can then travel to the brain, producing a stroke. Atrial fibrillation carries almost a fivefold risk of stroke.
Your goal: If you have atrial fibrillation, get it treated.
How to achieve it:
- If you have symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath, see your doctor for an exam.
- You may need to take an anticoagulant drug (blood thinner) such as warfarin (Coumadin) or one of the newer direct-acting anticoagulant drugs to reduce your stroke risk from atrial fibrillation. Your doctors can guide you through this treatment.
2.Control Your Diabetes
High blood sugar can make you 2-4 times more likely to have a stroke. If it’s not managed well, diabetes can lead to fatty deposits or clots inside your blood vessels. This can narrow the ones in your brain and neck and might cut off the blood supply to the brain.
If you have diabetes, kindly check your blood sugar regularly, take medications as prescribed, and see your doctor every few months so they can keep an eye on your levels and this will help prevent stroke.
3. Stop Smoking
Smoking causes your arteries to fur up (atherosclerosis) and makes your blood more likely to clot. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to have a stroke, and this risk will increase the more you smoke.
Stopping smoking will reduce your risk of a stroke (and other health conditions) – no matter how old you are or how long you have smoked. Giving up is not easy, but it is worth the effort to improve your health.
4. Don’t drink. If you drink — do it in moderation
Drinking a little alcohol is okay, and it may decrease your risk of stroke. Studies show that if you have about one drink per day, your risk may be lower. Once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply.
Your goal: Don’t drink alcohol or do it in moderation.
How to achieve it:
- Have no more than one glass of alcohol a day.
- Make red wine your first choice, because it contains resveratrol, which is thought to protect the heart and brain.
- Watch your portion sizes. A standard-sized drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce beer, or 1.5-ounce glass of hard liquor.
5. Exercise regularly
You can reduce your risk of stroke by exercising 30 minutes on most days of the week. Physical activity helps you control your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.
6.Maintain a healthy weight or Lose Weight
Being overweight increases you risk of stroke. Ask your doctor to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which will tell you if you are in a healthy range.
Obesity, as well as the complications linked to it (including high blood pressure and diabetes), raises your odds of having a stroke. If you’re overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can have a real impact on your stroke risk.
7. Eat Healthy diet
A healthy diet will help you reduce your risks of obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Each of those conditions raises your risk of having a stroke.
To lower the risks of developing these conditions you can;
- Reduce your salt intake. This will lower your risk of developing high blood pressure. You can reduce your salt consumption by not sprinkling table salt onto your food, not salting pasta or rice water, and purchasing canned foods that say low sodium. Check the ingredients in processed foods. Many have a high salt content.
- Eat a low fat diet. A fatty diet increases your risk of clogged arteries. You can easily eat less fat by choosing lean meats like poultry and fish and trimming the fat off of red meats. Drink low fat milk or skim milk instead of whole milk. Eat eggs sparingly because they are high in cholesterol. Check foods labeled “diet” or low fat- they can surprise you with sodium and fat content!
- Control your caloric intake. Eating a high calorie diet places you at a higher risk for diabetes and obesity unless you are extremely physically active. Limit your intake of highly sugary foods like candies, cookies, and pastries. The processed sugar provides calories without the nutrients that will make you feel full. This can make you prone to overeating.
- Increase the fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains that you eat. These foods are generally low fat and high in nutrients. They will supply you with the energy that you need without excess fat and calories.
8. Reduce or Lower blood pressure
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. Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference people can make to their vascular health.
Advisable: Maintain a blood pressure of less than 120/80 if possible. For some older people, this might not be possible because of medication side effects or dizziness with standing.
How to achieve it:
- Reduce the salt in your diet, ideally to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (about a half teaspoon).
- Increase polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in your diet, while avoiding foods high in saturated fats.
- Eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, one serving of fish two to three times a week, and several daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy.
- Get more exercise — at least 30 minutes of activity a day, and more, if possible.
- Quit smoking, if you smoke.