The risk of stroke increases with age, as does having a close relative who has had a stroke, but accepting that risk doesn’t have to be part of the aging process. If stroke prevention is high on your list of what you need to do to stay healthy, there are a few simple things you can start doing today to lower your risk.
Stroke Prevention: What You can Start Doing Today
Lower your blood pressure: High blood pressure is known as a “silent killer” because it often produces no symptoms until you’re faced with a life-threatening complication — like stroke. In fact, of people with untreated high blood pressure, a third die of stroke.
You want to aim for a blood pressure reading of less than 135/85. Anything over 140/90 is considered high blood pressure. While medications can help you lower your blood pressure, so can simple lifestyle changes like:
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing salt intake to no more than 1,500 milligrams per day
- Eating four to five cups of fruits and vegetables per day and one to two servings of fish two to three times per week
- Exercising at least 30 minutes per day
Drink in moderation: If you drink, do it in moderation. While a little alcohol intake can assist with stroke prevention, more than two drinks per day increases your risk. Not only that, how our bodies process alcohol changes as we age, so be aware of how you feel after drinking and adjust your intake accordingly.
Be aware of the types of stroke: There are three types of stroke: ischemic (clots), hemorrhagic and transient ischemic attack (TIA). According to the American Heart Association, 87 percent of strokes are caused by blood clots (ischemic). These kind of strokes happen as a result of an obstruction of a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are the result of ruptured aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation. TIAs are often known as mini strokes because there is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. While a TIA may not seem like a big deal because it’s temporary, it can signal that you’re a risk of at second stroke, which may be full blown.
Get more exercise: Exercise helps lower your blood pressure and helps you lose weight — two things that reduce stroke risk. Shoot for moderate exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Try walking, a fitness class or swimming for options, and if you can’t squeeze in 30 minutes at one time, break up activity into 10- or 15-minute intervals.
Know the symptoms: Stroke symptoms can be identified using the acronym FAST, which stands for face, arms, speech, time.
- Face: When you smile, does one side of your face droop?
- Arms: When you lift both arms, does one arm drift down?
- Speech: Is your speech slurred or sounding odd?
- Time: If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms call 911 right away.