7 Things You Can Do Today to Lower Your Stroke Risk
Taking these actions now can help you lower your risk of having a stroke later.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds—and every four minutes, someone in the U.S. dies of a stroke. Stroke is also a leading cause of long-term disability, the CDC says. Yet, according to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 50 percent of all strokes are preventable. All it takes from your end is some healthy lifestyle choices that you can start making today. Read on to discover seven things you can do to lower your stroke risk, according to experts.
Manage your weight.
Being overweight is associated with all kinds of health problems, including things like diabetes and high blood pressure, which significantly increase your risk of having a stroke. The good news is that even losing 10 pounds if you are overweight can have a substantial impact on your stroke risk.
According to Harvard Health, an ideal body mass index (BMI) is 25 or less. However, that may not be realistic for some people, so it's always best to speak with your doctor on what is right for your unique situation and health condition.
Staying active and getting regular exercise can have a wide variety of physical and mental health benefits. And because regular physical exercise can help you lose weight, lower blood pressure, and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it can directly lower your risk of stroke.
"Aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Even 10 minutes offers health benefits," Tommy Ng, MD, of Southern Ocean Medical Center, told Hackensack Meridian Health.
If you drink, do it in moderation.
If you are a person that enjoys the occasional glass of wine or beer, you don't necessarily need to cut that out of your life. In fact, a frequently cited 2005 study published in Stroke found that one to six servings of alcohol per week—such as wine, beer, or liquor—was associated with a lower risk of ischemic stroke compared to people who abstained from drinking altogether.
But everything in moderation. Overdoing it on alcohol is associated with a host of health problems, including an increased risk of stroke.
Unlike alcohol use, no amount of tobacco use—moderate or otherwise—is beneficial to your health. Quite the opposite, in fact.
According to Harvard Health: "Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stroke risk significantly."
Lower your blood pressure.
Regularly checking your blood pressure—and taking steps to lower it if it is high—is essential to reducing your risk of stroke, experts say.
"High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke," says Pinakin R Jethwa, MD, a board certified neurosurgeon with Jersey Shore University Medical Center. "It's estimated that almost half of adults have high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, learn to check it at home with a home monitor. Always remember to check your blood pressure while resting or sitting down."
According to Harvard Health, an ideal blood pressure is around 120/80 for most people. If yours is high, doing things like limiting the salt and saturated fats in your diet, eating more fruits and vegetables, and getting regular exercise can help bring those numbers down.
Eat a healthy diet.
As previously mentioned, eating a healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats can help lower your blood pressure, as well as reduce your risk of diabetes, which is a disease associated with increased stroke risk.
According to the Stroke Association: "Even making small changes to your eating habits can make a difference to your overall health, particularly if you have been told that you are at risk of having a stroke or TIA (transient ischaemic attack or mini-stroke)."
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Monitor your cholesterol.
Keeping an eye on your cholesterol is key to a healthy lifestyle and limiting your risk of serious health problems.
"High levels of LDL, or 'bad,' cholesterol and low levels of HDL, or 'good,' cholesterol clog arteries," Sheila Sahni, MD, a board certified cardiologist with JFK Medical Center, told Hackensack Meridian Health. "Your cholesterol level is an important part of your overall heart health. Based on your risk factors, your primary care doctor or cardiologist can let you know the best treatment for lowering your level and reducing your risk for heart disease and stroke."
A balanced diet, regular exercise, and other healthy lifestyle choices are all effective ways to lower high cholesterol, and thus lower your risk of stroke.