Lifestyle Changes Can Reduce Strokes: Are You at Risk?
Be honest with yourself. Are you over weight? Do you smoke? Do you have high blood pressure? Don’t exercise regularly? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you are at a higher risk of stroke.
Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or severely reduced. Brain cells begin to die within minutes.
The good news is that the odds of a stroke can be reduced through some simple lifestyle changes.
- Almost half of all strokes are related to high blood pressure (also called hypertension). Work with your doctor to control your blood pressure with lifestyle changes or medication.
- Exercise at least two and a half hours per week on a moderate level to reduce your risk of stroke. Remember, you don’t need a gym to get moving! Walking around your neighborhood is an easy way to start exercising. If you have a medical condition that may limit your ability to exercise, consult your doctor to create a workout plan that works for you.
- Reduce your cholesterol intake. Eat low-saturated fats, maintain healthy cholesterol levels and try to stay away from fast foods.
- Almost a quarter of all strokes are linked to poor diet. Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet five times or more a week.
- Stop smoking. There are free programs to help you.
Not all strokes are the same. There are two main types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic:
- An ischemic stroke happens when a blood clot keeps blood from flowing to your brain. About 85 percent of all strokes in the United States are ischemic.
- Sudden bleeding in the brain can result in a hemorrhagic stroke. This happens when a blood vessel in your brain breaks or ruptures, causing bleeding. This bleeding can cause swelling and pressure that damages brain cells and tissues.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when a clot temporarily blocks an artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Some doctors say this is a ministroke or a warning.
Know how to recognize a stroke. If you see the following signs of a stroke, it is an emergency.
Just remember FAST:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to Call 911
By knowing what to look for and acting quickly, you can lessen the long-term effects of stroke and maybe even save a life.
To learn more about strokes and what your heart may be telling you, check out our Healthy Living for Life TV show episode called Heart Hints, Silent Indicators.