Stroke Prevention Tips

December 19, 2023

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, causing temporary or permanent damage to brain cells. Recovery is possible, but the person may experience disabilities or, in the worst case, death.

Strokes are a leading cause of death and long-term disability in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, 1 in 4 adults will experience a stroke in their lifetime. They can happen to anyone at any age, but those who are age 55 and older are particularly susceptible. However, there are certain lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of a stroke.

Follow these tips to aid in stroke prevention:

1. Monitor Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, a major stroke risk factor, is indicated by a systolic number of 130 or higher and a diastolic number of 80 or higher. By monitoring and maintaining a healthy blood pressure (below 120/80 mm Hg), you can significantly reduce your stroke risk. In addition to talking with your doctor about your options, you can help improve your blood pressure by maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

2. Embrace a Balanced Diet

A well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low in saturated fats has many benefits for overall wellness – which includes lowering your risk for a stroke. Recommended by many doctors, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to lower stroke risk due to its emphasis on healthy fats and plant-based foods​​.

3. Regular Physical Activity

Another important aspect of stroke prevention is getting enough physical activity. Aim for 2.5 hours per week of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or swimming. Modifications include vigorously walking in place. ​Talk to your physician before engaging in a new exercise routine to ensure it’s right for you.

4. Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol Intake

Heavy drinking can trigger atrial fibrillation, which is a type of irregular heartbeat that can increase your odds of stroke. Smoking and secondhand smoke are also risk factors for stroke, as they interfere with the functioning of the heart and vascular systems.

5. Manage Chronic Conditions

Certain health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and sickle cell disease can increase odds of a stroke. Proper management of these conditions through medication and lifestyle changes is essential for stroke prevention​​. Make sure to follow the treatment plan provided by your doctor.

Signs of Stroke

Getting treatment for a stroke within 60 minutes can reduce disability. Therefore, recognizing the signs of a stroke are crucial for getting help as soon as possible. According to the American Stroke Association, you can use the acronym F.A.S.T. to remember what to look for:

  • F = Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
  • A = Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S = Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred?
  • T = Time to call 911 – Stroke is an emergency. Every minute counts. Call 911 immediately. Note the time when any of the symptoms first appear.

Other common symptoms of a stroke include sudden onset of:

  • Confusion
  • Numbness
  • Severe headache
  • Vision issues in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty walking or loss of balance

If you or a loved one begin experiencing these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

By making important lifestyle changes and recognizing the signs of a stroke, you can reduce your risk and improve your chances of surviving and recovering.

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