Did you know that up to 80% of strokes can be prevented? We’ve got some tips on how to reduce your risk and put your mind at ease.
Strokes, like many medical ailments, are scary because they can happen to anyone at anytime. With that being said, there are ways to prevent them, and it’s important to assess your personal risk and attack the problem head-on. One way to do this? Learn interactively about more than 20 leading risk factors for stroke through Stroke.org’s interactive risk factor tool.
Here are some tips for ways to reduce your risk:
- Know your blood pressure and keep monitoring it. Since high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke (and many other things), it’s important to keep tabs on yours and ways to lower it if need-be.
- Look out for Afib. If you have an abnormal heartbeat, your risk for stroke is increased by 500%. Make sure you continue treatment with your doctor.
- Quit smoking. Along with the millions of other reasons to quit, smoking doubles the risk of stroke. Non-smokers will also want to look out for hanging around smokers. University of Auckland researchers have said that people exposed to secondhand smoke are 82 percent more likely to suffer a stroke.
- Control your stress levels. Feel anxiety coming on? Take a five minute break to grab some water, count to ten or take a quick walk. “Anxiety causes chronic overproduction of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s control of circulation,” says Ernest Friedman, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University.
- Watch your alcohol intake. No surprise here, right?
- Recognize depression symptoms and get proper treatment. There’s a big difference between having a bad day (or week, even) and feeling generally depressed. If you feel persistent sadness, anxiousness, or “emptiness,” you should seek out medical help. And not just because depression can up your chances of stroke.
- Treat any circulation problems you might have.
- Drink less soda. “Elevated levels of triglycerides-any level above 150-are a risk factor for arterial disease,” says Daniel Fisher, M.D., an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine.
- Don’t forget to exercise! Just another excuse to hit the gym or hiking trails. Excess weight strains the circulatory system, causing several problems, including an increase of chance of stroke. Running and cycling are great, but if neither are for you, consider weight lifting. “Regular resistance training decreases blood pressure, elevates HDL cholesterol, lowers LDL cholesterol, and decreases the stickiness of the blood,” says Jerry Judd Pryde, M.D., a physiatrist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
- See a doctor if your total cholesterol level is more than 200.
- Drink plenty of H20. Loma Linda University researchers found that drinking five or more 8-ounce glasses of water daily cuts stroke risk by 53 percent. “Water helps to thin the blood, which in turn makes it less likely to form clots,” explains Jackie Chan, Dr.P.H., the lead study author.
- Get your flu shot. French researchers found that people who had a flu shot every year for five years before their study were 42 percent less stroke-prone than those who didn’t. “Chronic infections and the resultant inflammation might cause damage to the arteries and increase the risk of blood clots,” says Pierre Amarenco, M.D., the study author.
- Get at least seven hours of sleep, but not more than ten. Sleeping ten hours or more a night can increase your stroke risk up to 63%, say scientists at Harvard. Do you snore? According to Prevention.com, “studies suggest you’re twice as likely to develop metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions that raises your risk of stroke, as well as heart disease and diabetes.”
- Cook with olive oil. It helps prevent both strokes and heart attacks.
- Work on your migraines. If you get them somewhat regularly, it’s important to talk to your doctor about ways to control and prevent them. Those with common migraines are more at risk for stroke.
- Sunscreen up, but don’t avoid the sun. According to Mercola.com, “research presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Annual Scientific Sessions, low levels of vitamin D—the essential nutrient obtained from exposure to sunlight—doubles the risk of stroke in Caucasians.”
- Eat sweet potatoes, raisins, bananas and tomato paste. Each of these are loaded with potassium, which may reduce stroke risk by 20%. More good sources: other fruits and veggies, fish, poultry, and dairy.
- Control that temper. According to the journal Hypertension, “angry and aggressive people may be at a higher risk of stroke. Researchers found those who scored high for antagonistic traits on a standard personality test had greater thickening of the neck arteries (a risk factor for stroke) compared with people who were more agreeable.”