Although certain stroke risk factors – age, heredity, race, sex and prior stroke – cannot be controlled, you do have the power to make lifestyle and medical changes to decrease your risk of stroke.
Try these 10 tips to lower your stroke risk.
1. Know your blood pressure
Hypertension is one of the most common causes of stroke. Have your blood pressure checked at least once a year, and if it’s high, work with your doctor to control it.
2. Find out if you have atrial fibrillation
An abnormal heartbeat that can cause blood to pool in the heart, form a clot and cause a stroke, atrial fibrillation can increase stroke risk by 500 percent. A doctor can diagnose and help you manage AF.
3. If you smoke, stop
Smoking doubles the risk of stroke. Your risk for stroke immediately begins to drop as soon as you quit smoking.
4. Moderate your alcohol use
Alcohol use has been linked to stroke in many studies. If you drink, do so in moderation.
5. Know your cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a fatty substance in blood that is made by the body, and it also comes in food. High cholesterol levels can clog arteries and cause a stroke. See a doctor if your combined cholesterol level is more than 200.
6. Control diabetes
Your doctor can suggest healthy meals, exercise and medicine to help control your diabetes. Follow your doctor’s advice to maintain your blood sugar level.
7. Exercise regularly
Excess weight strains the circulatory system. Aim to exercise five times a week for 30 minutes each time.
8. Eat a low-sodium, low-fat diet
Limit calories, salt, fat and cholesterol. Eat a balanced diet each day, including five servings of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and a moderate amount of protein.
9. Ask your doctor if you have circulation problems
Fatty deposits can block arteries carrying blood to the brain and lead to a stroke. Your doctor can diagnose and help treat circulatory problems.
10. Act FAST at the first warning sign of stroke
If you have any stroke symptoms or see them in someone else, call 911.
You can assess your own stroke risk with this “Stroke Risk Scorecard” from the National Stroke Association.
For more information, you can also visit the American Stroke Association website.