Anyone can have a stroke. But according to the National Stroke Association, 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented. Learn what you can do to reduce your risk of having a stroke by discussing it with your doctor. The list below is good place to start.
- Keep your blood pressure under control. Do you know your blood pressure? If your blood pressure is above 140/90 mmHg for long periods of time, it can damage the blood vessels and increase your risk of stroke. If you have concerns, discuss them with your doctor. You may need medication or he or she may encourage you to include more heart-healthy foods in your diet and get regular exercise. Learn about high blood pressure (hypertension) here.
- Find out if you have atrial fibrillation (Afib or AF). AFib is an irregular heartbeat that contributes to blood pooling (and clumping or clotting) in the upper chamber of your heart. Clots pushed out of the heart by its beating can lodge in vessels and block blood flow to the brain, causing stroke. If you have AFib, your care team may prescribe medications that thin the blood and prevent it from clotting as easily, or your doctor may recommend a procedure that prevents blood clots from forming in your heart and traveling to your brain where they could cause a stroke. For more information about atrial fibrillation and how it can be treated, visit the SecondsCount Afib Center here.
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke. You can dramatically lower your risk of stroke by quitting today. Make it easier on yourself by finding some support - from family and friends but also helpful tools such as SecondsCount Smoke-Free Success Plan. If you choose not to quit smoking, at least try to cut back. Learn why and how to quit smoking here.
- Drink in moderation. People who drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day face a significantly higher risk of stroke.
- Lower your cholesterol. Cholesterol is a soft, waxy fat in the bloodstream and the body’s cells. A total cholesterol level of more than 200, a high “LDL” (“bad” cholesterol) level, or a low HDL (“good” cholesterol) level may indicate an increased risk for stroke. If your cholesterol is high, your doctor may recommend that you make lifestyle changes, including eating a heart-healthy diet and getting regular physical activity, to bring it down. Make it fun if you can. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk for stroke. You can learn more about heart-healthy nutrition here.
- Get regular physical activity. A brisk walk for just 30 minutes each day is good for your health and may reduce the likelihood of a stroke. If walking isn’t your favorite activity, choose another that you enjoy. The important thing is to make time each day for exercise. Learn about physical activity and heart health here.
- Eat a healthy diet. Strive to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, and a moderate amount of protein (meat, fish, eggs, milk, nuts, tofu, and some beans). Eating foods with lots of fiber, such as whole grain breads and cereals, raw fruits and vegetables and dried beans, and reducing salt and fat has been found to reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure, thus helping lower your risk of stroke. Click here to learn more about heart-healthy nutrition here.
- Ask your doctor if you have blood or blood circulation problems that could increase your risk for stroke. If you have sickle cell disease, severe anemia in which your red cell count is lower than normal, or other blood conditions, talk to your doctor about medication and other ways of treating them to reduce your risk of stroke.
- See your doctor and follow up with any recommended testing and treatment. Your doctor can check blood flow through your heart and arteries using a variety of tests.Depending on the results, your doctor may prescribe medications or recommend medical procedures to improve blood flow.