Every year, about 795,000 Americans have a stroke, and 140,000 of them die from it. Those who live may suffer serious disabilities.
The only good news about stroke is that it’s not inevitable and anyone can lower their risk of having one. Though family history and age can’t be changed, diet and lifestyle choices can. Here are four things to do to help prevent a stroke:
1. Stop Smoking
Smoking has a negative impact on all aspects of your health. Where stroke risk is concerned, you’re looking at two to four times more likely than a nonsmoker or someone who has quit for 10 years (or more). This is because smoking thickens the blood and causes plaque buildup in the arteries. The longer you smoke, the more damage you are doing.
Quitting smoking may be easier said than done, but if you have a setback, don’t give up!
2. Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension), is one of the most important modifiable risk factors of stroke, with 8 in 10 people experiencing their first stroke due to hypertension, according to the CDC. By monitoring your blood pressure and working to lower it, you can begin to improve your vascular health.
Tips for lowering your blood pressure: Consider reducing the intake of foods that are high in cholesterol; ensure fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are in your daily diet; exercise at least 30 minutes a day; quit smoking. Consult your doctor to see if blood pressure medicines are right for you or for other ways to help maintain your ideal blood pressure.
3. Lose Weight
Being overweight is a primary risk factor for stroke in both men and women and losing weight, even just a few pounds, can significantly decrease your stroke risk. While an ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, it’s important to work with your doctor to determine your ideal weight and weight loss strategy.
Tips for losing weight: Start increasing your physical activity during your day-to-day, like taking a walk on your lunch break or playing ball with your kids; work with a dietitian to create a healthy, customized diet for your health goals.
4. Know That Symptoms Happen F.A.S.T
The moment you realize something is off, you’ll want to get professional help right away. So remember to think F.A.S.T:
- Face: drooping on one side of the face with smile
- Arms: when lifting both arms, one will drift downwards
- Speech: Odd or slurred speech
- Time: If you experience or see someone experiencing one of these signs, it’s time to call 911.
Other signs include vision loss, numbness and tingling, unsteady walk, severe headache.
Of all the strokes that happen each year, 75 percent could have been prevented with the use of ultrasound screenings and proper physician follow up. Contact us today to schedule a vascular screening at Kirby Medical Center’s Imaging Department, no physician order necessary: (217) 762-1826.