Did you know that strokes are the third leading cause of death in America? In fact, strokes kill more people each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Strokes can also lead to long-term disability, so it’s important to understand what causes them and warning signs that you may be having one. However, another thing you should be keeping in mind is ways to lower your chances of having one. This article will give you some helpful ways that you can reduce your risk of having a stroke.
Smoking is one of the worst habits someone can have. It not only causes lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, but it can also cause heart attacks and strokes. If you smoke the risk of having a stroke is two times higher. If you’re a long-term smoker, your risk may increase up to four times higher than for someone who never smoked. Although it is difficult to quit, you can do it with support and hard work. Try talking to your doctor about getting help, as well as to your family and friends.
Many people fail to realize that exercise is one of the best ways you can prevent a stroke from happening. Your brain depends on blood flow for oxygen and glucose, which are the main sources of energy for your body. Increasing your heart rate will help to increase cerebral blood flow, oxygen, and glucose delivery to your brain cells. You should get in the habit of working out on a regular basis. For a general workout that can help keep your brain healthy, try doing cardiovascular exercises. 30 minutes a day for five days a week is typically what doctors recommend.
Obesity is another dangerous condition that can lead to many serious health problems like cardiovascular disease and stroke. People who are obese have 70% greater risk of having a stroke than people who are at a normal weight. If you are overweight, losing just 10% of your body weight can reduce your risk by up to 15%. Try making small lifestyle changes over time to lose the weight and keep it off. For example, try taking the stairs instead of the escalator or lift weights whenever you can, as well as eat more fruits and veggies instead of calorie-rich foods.
Reduce Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the main contributors to having a stroke. High blood pressure is a result of when you consistently have persistent force being exerted against the artery walls. If this continues, it will eventually damage the arterial wall and restrict blood flow which can lead to a stroke. If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to keep an eye on your numbers. Try keeping track of the readings with a home monitor or app. You can also ask your doctor about what your target ranges should be and how often you need to check them.
Keep Cholesterol Under Control
Having elevated blood cholesterol levels is another risk factor for stroke. LDL or low-density lipoprotein carries cholesterol throughout your blood while HDL or high-density lipoprotein carries it back to the liver. You want to have an HDL level higher than 60mg/dL and an LDL level lower than 100mg/dL. If you are struggling with this, try increasing your physical activity and healthy eating habits. Both can help reduce high cholesterol levels. If this isn’t effective, ask your doctor about some prescription drugs that you can take to further control your LDL and HDL levels.
Quit Drinking Alcoholic Beverages
Another dangerous habit that people partake in is drinking alcohol on a regular basis. People who drink too much are at a greater risk of having a stroke from an irregular heart beat, blood clots, or high blood pressure. If you find yourself drinking often during the week or on the weekends, try to start cutting back. Your doctor may also recommend that you don’t consume any alcohol because your risk of stroke is already so high.
Eating a Healthy Diet
There are a number of nutritional changes you can make to help reduce your risk of stroke. First, try making the switch from saturated fats to unsaturated fats which will help decrease lipid levels in your blood. Next, eat more foods that have omega-3 fatty acids which lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels as well as raise HDL cholesterol levels. Try eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, and nuts regularly. These are simple ways to make sure you are getting the right amount of nutrients in your body that can help keep it healthy.
Reduce Sodium Intake
Sodium is a major factor in having elevated blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you should keep your sodium intake as low as possible. Try making the simple swap from table salt to other spices that can add flavor to your foods. If keeping track of the amount of sodium you are consuming each day seems too difficult, just be sure to keep the total amount below 2,000mg.
Stroke is a very common, yet serious condition that can lead to death if left untreated and the idea of having one can be scary. So let that fear be a motivator. There are many ways you can reduce your risk of having a stroke, some simple and some more difficult. However, none are impossible if you are determined to keep yourself healthy for the years ahead.