Posted on Sep 05, 2019, 9 p.m.
Research suggests that you can take steps to start stroke prevention today to help protect yourself and avoid experiencing a stroke regardless of your age of family history.
You are not able to reverse time or change your family history, but there are other risk factors that you can control as long as you are aware of them; knowledge is power. "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." says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke in both men and women," Dr. Rost says. "Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference people can make to their vascular health."
High blood pressure can double to quadruple risks for suffering a stroke if not treated. Try to reduce the amount of salt in your diet as much as possible, avoid high cholesterol foods, and smoking should be eliminated. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables and be sure to get more exercise.
Obesity and the complications linked to it will increase your odds of having a stroke, if you are overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can make a difference. Work with your physician to come up with a plan to help you lose weight, increase your physical activity, and try to limit your caloric intake to no more than 1,500-2,000 calories a day.
Physical activity/exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, independent of this exercise is also a stroke reducer. Try to exercise at a moderate intensity 5 days a week by walking around the block, taking the stairs more, or ride a bike; if 30 minutes of consecutive exercise can’t be accomplished try to break it into 10-15 minute sessions a few times a day.
If you drink alcohol be sure to do it in moderation or better yet don’t drink at all. According to Dr. Rost, "Once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply."
"Atrial fibrillation carries almost a fivefold risk of stroke, and should be taken seriously," Dr. Rost says. If you have atrial fibrillation be sure to get it treated, should you experience symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath see your doctor for an exam.
Keep your blood sugar under control via diet, exercise, and any medication recommended by your doctor to keep levels within guidelines, as high blood sugar damages blood vessels which over time will make blood clots more likely.
Quit smoking as it will accelerate clot formation by thickening blood and increasing the amount of plaque build up 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," Dr. Rost says.
Learn the signs of a stroke and don’t ignore them because you are unsure if they are real symptoms or not. "My recommendation is, don't wait if you have any unusual symptoms," Dr. Rost advises “Listen to your body and trust your instincts. If something is off, get professional help right away."
An acronym has been created to help you remember and take action upon the signs of a stroke to help you identify a stroke F-A-S-T:
F= does one side of the face droop when you smile?
A= when your arms are lifted does one arm drift back down?
S= Is your speech slurred or sound odd?
T= If you or anyone else is displaying these signs call for help right away such as 911.
According to the National Stroke Association signs of a stroke includes but is not limited to weakness on one side of the body, numbness of the face, unusual or severe headache, vision loss, numbness and tingling, and unsteady walking.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.