A stroke occurs when blood supply to a part of your brain is interrupted or cut off and, as a result, brain cells are deprived of oxygen. This can happen either due to a blockage or bleeding in and around the brain.
Though the signs and symptoms of a stroke can vary from person to person, the most common symptoms are face drooping, speech difficulties and muscle weakness on one side of the body.
Strokes are a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. But, did you know that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented? This can be done by controlling the risk factors, which include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity.
Also, remember that when a stroke strikes, every minute counts. So, call an ambulance right away to lower the risk of death or disability.
Here are some useful tips to help prevent or delay a stroke.
1. Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol Use
When compared to non-smokers, smokers are two times more likely to have an ischemic stroke which is caused by a narrowing or blocking of arteries to the brain.
A 2008 study of women ages 15 to 49 published in the journal Stroke found that there is a dose-response relationship between the current number of cigarettes smoked per day and ischemic stroke risk. In other words, stroke risk is proportional to how much a person smokes.
Try to quit smoking, and seek professional help if needed. It will also improve your overall health and reduce the risk of other serious conditions.
Also, limit your alcohol intake as heavy drinking increases the risk of strokes. Men should not drink more than 3 to 4 units a day. Women should not drink more than 2 to 3 units a day. One unit of alcohol is about ½ pint of weak beer, a small pub measure of spirits or ½ standard glass of wine.
2. Control High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for strokes. People often do not treat high blood pressure aggressively because it does not have any outward telltale signs.
The American Heart Association reports that only about 45 percent of people with high blood pressure actually have it under control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with uncontrolled high blood pressure are four times more likely to die from a stroke than those with normal blood pressure.
Take your blood pressure medicine as directed, get regular checkups and make necessary lifestyle changes like limiting salt intake to help regulate your blood pressure.
3. Make Healthy Eating Choices
Follow a healthy diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains like apples, pears, berries, cherries, pomegranate, broccoli, kale, spinach, avocados, almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and others. Your diet should be high in fiber and antioxidants, and low in saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars.
Plus, the American Heart Association recommends eating green leafy vegetables along with fortified grains and cereals to get enough folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12.
These nutrients are associated with lower levels of an amino acid called homocysteine in the blood. High levels of this amino acid are linked to cardiovascular problems, including strokes.
4. Get Regular Exercise
Being physically active helps you remain fit and healthy. Regular exercise also helps lower cholesterol, regulate high blood pressure, control diabetes and prevent harmful clots.
A 2015 study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that women who were physically active a few times per week had lower risks of heart disease, strokes and blood clots than inactive women.
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity for about 20 minutes daily is fine for most people. You can pick an activity you enjoy like brisk walking, swimming, dancing, gardening, cycling or Tai chi. Also, be more active during the day by taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking your car further away from your office.
Ask your doctor to help you prepare a proper exercise plan with the types and amount of activity that is safe for you.