Tips to Lower Your Stroke Risk
On average, someone in the United States suffers a stroke every 40 seconds. The fourth leading cause of death for Americans, strokes can be prevented up to 80 percent of the time, according to the National Stroke Association. So how do you lower your stroke risk? Know your risk factors and actively work to reduce them.
What Is A Stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is suddenly disrupted, choking off its oxygen supply. Without oxygen, brain cells go into shock and then start to die.
“The most frequent form of stroke is called an ischemic stroke,” says Dirk Baumann, M.D., a Mills-Peninsula vascular surgeon. Caused by blockages to the blood vessels supplying blood and oxygen to the brain, ischemic strokes account for 80 percent of all strokes. The other less common form of stroke, hemorrhagic, typically occurs when a person suffers a traumatic blow to the head, causing blood vessels to burst.
How to Lower Your Risk
“The likelihood of having a stroke is more of a lifestyle issue than anything else,” Mills-Peninsula vascular surgeon Raju Gandhi, M.D., says.
Keeping your arteries clear of plaque (the fatty substance that accumulates in your arteries) is key, he says, and can minimize your risk for ischemic stroke.
Dr. Gandhi recommends these tips for maintaining healthy arteries:
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Cut back on red meat as well as other saturated fats, trans fats, salt, cholesterol and processed sugar
- If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, see your doctor and get these issues under control
- Quit smoking; smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to have a stroke
- Watch your weight and minimize stress whenever possible
Stroke warning signs include sudden weakness in the limbs on one side of the body, facial droop, loss of vision, slurred speech, inability to walk or a severe headache. If you or someone else has any one of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.