7 Lifesaving Tips to Prevent Stroke and Stroke-Related Disability
Stroke is a leading cause of death and serious long-term disability. But you can reduce your risk with lifestyle changes.
According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is an interruption of blood flow to the brain causing paralysis, slurred speech and/or altered brain function. About nine of every 10 strokes are caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that carries blood to the brain; this is known as an ischemic stroke. The other type of stroke is known as hemorrhagic, caused by a blood vessel bursting.
Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds on average. When considered separately from other cardiovascular diseases, stroke ranks No. 5 among all causes of death in the nation, killing approximately 142,000 people a year. Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability; and stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.
Not all strokes can be prevented, but making healthy lifestyle choices -- like exercising, eating right, maintaining a healthy weight and treating conditions such as high blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure -- can help reduce your risk of having another stroke. While there are about 7.2 million stroke survivors in the U.S., people who have had a stroke are at high risk of having another one. In fact, about one in every four stroke survivors will have a second one.
Efforts like Together to End Stroke, an American Stroke Association initiative nationally sponsored by Bayer Aspirin, work to educate stroke survivors and caregivers about how they can avoid a second occurrence. Because the consequences of a second stroke can be more detrimental than the first, it’s important to recognize the signs, which come on suddenly, and act quickly. An easy way to remember the most common stroke warning signs is the acronym F.A.S.T.: F– face drooping, A – arm weakness, S – speech difficulty, T – time to call 911.
Talk to your doctor about medications that may help you with your stroke prevention efforts. For example, taking aspirin regularly or other blood clot prevention medications can help reduce the risk of another ischemic stroke.
photo courtesy of American Heart Association
Consider following the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s “Life's Simple 7” to achieve ideal health:
1. Don't smoke. Smoking puts you at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Quitting is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and add years to your life. You’re more likely to quit for good if you prepare for your last cigarette and the cravings, urges and feelings that come with quitting.
2. Be physically active. A good starting goal is at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week, but if you don’t want to sweat the numbers, just move more. Find forms of physical activity you like and will stick with and build more opportunities to be active into your routine.
3. Eat a healthy diet. Healthy eating starts with simple, healthy food choices. You don’t need to stop eating your favorite meals, just use substitutions to make them healthier. Learn what to look for at the grocery store, restaurants, your workplace and other eating occasions so you can confidently make healthy, delicious choices whenever and wherever you eat.
4. Maintain a healthy weight. The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight go beyond improved energy and smaller clothing sizes. By losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, you can also reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. There’s no trick to losing weight and keeping it off, but the majority of successful people modify their eating habits and increase physical activity.
5. Control cholesterol. Having large amounts of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (aka the bad cholesterol) in the blood can cause build up and blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Reducing your fat intake, especially trans fats, often found in fried foods and baked goods, can help reduce your cholesterol. Adding more foods with omega-3 fatty acids like fish and nuts, as well as soluble fiber and whey protein, helps in managing cholesterol.
6. Manage blood pressure. Nothing causes more strokes than uncontrolled high blood pressure. Of the 116.4 million people in the U.S. who have high blood pressure, fewer than half have it under control, putting them at increased risk of stroke. Lowering your blood pressure by 20 points could cut your risk of dying from stroke by half.
7. Control blood sugar. By managing your diabetes and working with your health care team, you may reduce your risk of stroke. Every two minutes, an adult with diabetes in the U.S. is hospitalized for stroke. At age 60, someone with type 2 diabetes and a history of stroke may have a life expectancy that is 12 years shorter than someone without both conditions.
For more information on how to prevent stroke, and a complete list of warning signs, please visit strokeassociation.org/americanstrokemonth.
Family Features; Photo courtesy of Getty Images