5 Things to Do to Prevent a Stroke

What Can You Do to Prevent a Stroke?

A stroke can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, or sex. At the same time, strokes are largely preventable. Up to 80% of strokes could have been prevented through lifestyle changes and medical care.1 Whether you're in a high-risk category, it's worthwhile to do what you can to help prevent a stroke.

1. Treat Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of having a stroke. For example, hypertension, aka high blood pressure, is a leading cause of strokes. High blood pressure is common and affects more than half of men and more than 40% of women. Only about 20% of people with hypertension have it under control.1 Fortunately, controlling blood pressure can be straightforward, with lifestyle changes, medications, or both.

A few other conditions also increase the risk of stroke. Like hypertension, you can work with your doctor to get these conditions under control:

● Diabetes: High blood sugar causes damage to blood vessels, increasing the risk of clots. Managing your blood sugar reduces the damage.

● High cholesterol: Managing your cholesterol levels also helps reduce stroke risk. Your family physician may recommend lifestyle changes or medication to help lower your cholesterol.

● Irregular heartbeat: An irregular heartbeat, or atrial fibrillation, can cause clots in the heart and increases your risk of stroke five times.2 Your doctor may recommend blood thinners to help treat the condition.

2. Eat a Healthy Diet

Your diet plays a role in your overall health. Certain dietary choices, such as eating foods with a lot of cholesterol or saturated fat, worsen conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease, and in turn, increase the risk of a stroke. Foods that are high in sodium also contribute to high blood pressure while a diet that contains a lot of sugar can contribute to diabetes.

Depending on your current diet, some simple changes can make a big difference. For instance, if you eat red meat several times a week, try swapping it out for fish at least one a week and lean protein, like chicken, the other times.

Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit can also help reduce stroke risk. If you don't already eat five or so servings of fruit and vegetables daily, try adding one serving of each to each meal.

3. Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes dramatically raises the risk of having a stroke. For every five cigarettes a person smokes, stroke risk increases by 12%.1

Tobacco products increase stroke risk in a few ways. Smoking makes your blood thicker, so it doesn't flow through the veins and arteries as well. It also contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Quitting smoking can be tough, but help is available. You can use smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine patches or gum, get support from your friends and family, and work with your doctor to kick the habit. Parrish Healthcare partners with Tobacco Free Florida to offer in-person sessions to help you quit. For the next available class, visit parrishhealthcare.com/events

4. Get Enough Exercise

Exercise and physical activity benefit your body in multiple ways, including by reducing your stroke risk. Physically active people have 30% lower risk of stroke than those who aren't active.1

You don't have to take up extreme sports or start running marathons to see the benefits of exercise. Even something simple, like taking a 20 to 30 minute walk each day, will help.

5. Get Preventive Care

Your family physician can be an excellent resource for stroke prevention. Your preventive care plan can include getting screened for common stroke risk factors, such as high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Your doctor can also put together treatment plan for you to get any conditions under control and lower your risk.

Being proactive about your health pays off and can help you avoid the debilitating effects of a stroke.

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1. 5 critical steps to help prevent a stroke, American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/en/news/2021/05/05/5-critical-steps-to-help-prevent-a-stroke

2. 7 Things You can Do to Prevent a Stroke, Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/8-things-you-can-do-to-prevent-a-stroke

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