“A stroke can happen to anyone at any time,” warns the National Stroke Association. That’s why you need to understand which stroke risk factors you can improve—and the ones you can’t.
Your brain is starving for blood
A stroke is a blockage of blood flow to an area of your brain. Deprived of oxygen, your brain cells in the area begin to die, and that means you begin to lose abilities—limb control, sight, speech, or even memory. According to the National Stroke Association (NSA), for the 800,000 people in the United States who have a stroke for the first time or a recurrent one, the effects vary. A mini-stroke may only raise minor issues, such as temporary weakness of an arm or leg; a major stroke can cause permanent damage or death. Every four minutes in the United States, a person dies from a stroke, and that’s tragic because 80 percent of those strokes are preventable. Read on to learn how to reduce your stroke risk factors.
High blood pressure
Shazam Hussain, MD, director of the Cerebrovascular Center at Cleveland Clinic, says high blood pressure is the most significant preventable risk factor for stroke. “If blood pressure could be controlled in the United States, half of strokes would be eliminated,” says Dr. Hussain. High blood pressure wreaks havoc on your arteries. When they weaken or suffer damage, they can burst or clog more easily. That’s why doctors push patients to hit a healthy blood pressure number: “The newest guidelines recommend blood pressure be less than 130/80,” says Dr. Hussain. One way to lower your blood pressure is to limit salt intake to less than 1500 milligrams per day. The American Heart Association recommends following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) to lower blood pressure. Here are 11 things everyone should know about the DASH Diet.
Cholesterol in the arteries can block normal blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke. That’s one reason to watch your cholesterol. Ideal total cholesterol is 200. Once you hit 240, you’re at higher risk for stroke. It’s especially important to ask your doctor about your very low-density lipoprotein—VLDL—levels. High levels of VLDL cholesterol are associated with developing plaque deposits on artery walls, which can narrow the artery, restricting blood flow. “Eat a healthy diet; limiting the amounts of saturated fats and trans fats is very important,” says Dr. Hussain. “Due to the beneficial fats in fish, eating fish twice a week is recommended.” In addition cut back on sugar and refined carbohydrates, as eating more of these than you burn can lead to excessive amounts of triglycerides and high levels of VLDL. Finally, daily exercise is also essential. Keep in close collaboration with your doctor in regards to medication and diet to lower cholesterol Dr. Hussain says. Here’s what doctors do to lower their cholesterol.