Community Blog

7 Keys of Stroke Prevention

By Kelly Petty, Marketing Manager

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. 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.

Here are seven ways to start reining in your risks today, before a stroke has the chance to strike.

  1. Lower blood pressure

High Blood pressure exerts continuous pressure on the walls of the arteries. If it is left untreated, it damages and weakens your arteries, making them more likely to clog or burst and cause a stroke. Hypertension is the biggest contributing risk factor to stroke, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled.

Your ideal goal: Maintain a blood pressure of less than 120/80. But for some, a less aggressive goal (such as 140/90) may be more appropriate.

How to achieve it:

  • Reduce the salt in your diet to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (about a half teaspoon).
  • Avoid high-cholesterol foods, such as burgers, cheese, and ice cream.
  • 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.
  • Vedic Meditation- If you want to know how to prevent a stroke, look to stress. The first way Vedic meditation helps in preventing a stroke is by preventing stress. Meditation calms the mind, body and nervous system so that we are much less likely to respond in a stressful way when challenged. We achieve a more balanced blood flow so that no areas of brain or body starve of oxygen, nutrients or other vital ingredients.

If needed, take blood pressure medicines.

  1. Revamp your diet and lose weight

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.

Your goal: Keep your body mass index (BMI) at 25 or less.

How to achieve it:

  • Try to eat no more than 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day (depending on your activity level and your current BMI).
  • Increase the amount of exercise you do with activities like walking, golfing, or playing tennis, and by making activity part of every single day.

Although there are many approaches to eating healthy, following these basic guidelines can help simplify the process:

  • Stock up on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Buy produce in an array of colors -- reds, oranges, yellows and greens -- to get a range of nutrients.
  • Buy only whole-grain bread, cereal, rice, and pasta.
  • Choose poultry, fish, and lean meats.
  • Add nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans and peas) to your meals several times a week.
  • Use healthy fats such as olive, avocado and coconut oils.
  • Toss your salt shaker. Don't add salt while cooking or at the table.
  • Read food labels and avoid foods high in sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and trans-fat.
  • Try to have at least one meatless meal a week. Eating more of a plant-based diet makes it easier to limit cholesterol and unhealthy fats.

When your cupboard is bare, it can be all too easy to resort to fast food. That's why it's so important to have healthy foods available at all times.

 

  1. Exercise more

Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but it also stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer.

Your goal: Exercise at a moderate intensity at least five days a week.

How to achieve it:

  • Take a walk around your neighborhood every morning after breakfast.
  • Start a fitness club with friends.
  • When you exercise, reach the level at which you're breathing hard, but you can still talk.
  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator when you can.
  • If you don't have 30 consecutive minutes to exercise, break it up into 10- to 15-minute sessions a few times each day.
  1. Drink — in moderation

What you've heard is true. Drinking can make you less likely to have a stroke — up to a point. 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: Drink alcohol in moderation.

How to achieve it:

  • Have 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.
  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, and should be taken seriously.

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 blood thinners such as high-dose aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin) to reduce your stroke risk from atrial fibrillation. Your doctors can guide you through this treatment.
  1. Treat diabetes

Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them.

Your goal: Keep your blood sugar under control.

How to achieve it:

  • Monitor your blood sugar as directed by your doctor.
  • Use diet, exercise, and medicines to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.
  1. Quit smoking

Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stroke risk significantly. Research shows the benefits come quickly -- just five years after you stop smoking, your risk for stroke will be the same as that of a nonsmoker.

Your goal: Quit smoking.

How to achieve it:

  • Ask your doctor for advice on the most appropriate way for you to quit.
  • Use quit-smoking aids, such as nicotine pills or patches, counseling, acupuncture or other medicine.
  • Don't give up. Most smokers need several tries to quit. See each attempt as bringing you one step closer to successfully beating the habit.

Identify a stroke F-A-S-T

Too many men and especially women ignore the signs of stroke because they question whether their symptoms are real. The key is, don't wait if you have any unusual symptoms. Listen to your body and trust your instincts. If something is off, get professional help right away.

The National Stroke Association has created an easy acronym to help you remember, and act on, the signs of a stroke. Cut out this image and post it on your refrigerator for easy reference.