You probably know someone-in your friend or family circle- who has had a stroke. Strokes and heart attacks are the most common cardiovascular diseases which are killing more and more people around the world each year. Those who suffer a stroke are often at a risk of getting another one. So today we will be discussing important stroke prevention guidelines that could save lives.
1. Assess your risk
Stroke strikes nearly 750,000 Americans each year and there are nearly 4 million stroke survivors in the United States today. Rather than fearing stroke, it is important to face it as a medical condition that is also preventable. Talk to your doctor about your risk of stroke or heart attack. Assessing your risk is the first step in preventing these diseases. Once you know your risk, you can take steps to reduce those risks. Ask your doctor if you can take brain imaging tests, CT scans or MRI scans along with ECG and/or EEG to diagnose strokes and start medicines or lifestyle changes for prevention. Also check your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, weight and blood fats at least two times a year.
2. Avoid certain medicines
Many drugs like oral contraceptives and hormone treatments can increase your risk of strokes. Speak to your doctor if you are taking any of these medicines. This is an essential step of natural stroke prevention.
3. Lifestyle changes
Your lifestyle also plays crucial role in your risk for developing strokes or heart attack. How you live your life will determine your risk level. It is vital to live a rich life surrounded by family and friends. Next, comes diet. You must eat all the stroke fighting foods your doctor recommends. We will be discussing some foods to prevent stroke and heart attack later in this guide. Work and play with a focus on stress control are all part of the stroke prevention guidelines. You may also want to quit smoking, curb your intake of alcohol and get daily physical activity of at least 30 minutes.
4. Keep your blood pressure in check
Stroke kills 5 million people each year and disables an equal number annually. A tiny blood clot or blockage is all that it takes to trigger a heart attack or stroke. The good news is that you can work with your doctor to significantly lower your risk. An important part of stroke prevention guidelines is to lower blood pressure. You need to work with your doctor in order to lower the top number in the BP reading (systolic pressure) by 10 points and bottom number (diastolic pressure) in the reading by at least 5 points. This can reduce your risk of strokes by nearly 41% as per a UK research.
Here is a summary of ways to lower Blood Pressure:
- Stay active
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Limit salt in the diet
- Also limit or eliminate alcohol.
See my article on Easy Ways to Lower Blood Pressure.
5. Know the signs and symptoms
Strokes present themselves as different issues in the body. For example, ischemic strokes can lead to very low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, seizures, numbness, loss of sensation in certain body parts, loss of consciousness, severe migraines, incoherent speech, drooping eyelids or facial features, transient blindness in one eye, etc. If any of these signs and symptoms occurs, seek immediate help. Family members must not delay seeking medical help for their loved ones who show these signs. Here are some more warning signs of strokes:
- Inability to recognize familiar faces
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Double vision
- Difficulty in swallowing
6. Understand role of plaque (atherosclerosis) in arteries
Atherosclerotic plaque is the accumulation of cholesterol and fat in the arterial walls. The best way to prevent plaque deposits is to:
- Manage blood glucose levels
- Eat less fat
- Manage weight
- Exercise and stay active
- Take medicines to reduce plaque deposits.
- Work on ways to lower triglyceride levels in the blood
7. Reduce chronic stress
It is now believed that people are more likely to develop heart attacks or strokes if they are lonely, anxious or stressed for prolonged periods. One should take steps to avoid these factors. Stay connected with people. Make friends and laugh a lot. If your health permits it, get involved in social groups. Volunteer nearby to enrich lives of others less fortunate. Get a hobby. Meditate. All these things can reduce stress and also enrich your life in numerous other ways. You must change your lifestyle if there are stressors. Talk to a therapist, counselor, doctor or a trusted friend and seek changes.
8. Eat foods that prevent stroke
Here is a list of foods to prevent stroke and heart attacks:
- Fiber-Fiber not only reduces risk of certain cancers, it is also necessary to ward of heart disease and strokes. Increase your daily fiber intake by just 7 grams per day to lower your risk of strokes by nearly 10%. Best sources-broccoli, cereals, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Potassium rich foods– Research has shown that an increase of 1640 mg of potassium per day can cut the risk of strokes by 21%. Best sources: Bananas, green beans and sweet potatoes.
- Citrus– Vitamin C rich fruits are also associated with reduced risk of strokes. So eat plenty of oranges.
- Antioxidants– These are free-radical destroying nutrients that prevent heart attack, strokes and cancers. So eat a plant based diet. Go for berries, herbs, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The aim is to continuously flood your body with antioxidants to ward off strokes, cancers and other age related issues.
Also limit your intake of foods that cause stroke.These include excess sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and alcohol.
9. Exercise daily
Walk, run, swim or join a gym. Spend at least 30 minutes doing an activity you love.
10. Quit smoking-active and passive
Stop inhaling other people’s cigarette smoke and quit the habit to lower your risk of strokes naturally.
If you have had a stroke or heart attack, or are caring for someone who has suffered one, then you know how difficult life can be. The effects of the disease are far reaching and can even impact beyond immediate family. We hope these tips help you prevent stroke and improve your quality of life.