Stroke Smart Magazine
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Reduce the Risk
Lifestyle Changes Can Limit the Likelihood of Stroke
A Harvard University Nurses Health study found that women
who eat lots of whole grain foods – the equivalent of two to three slices of
whole-grain bread daily – can reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 40
percent. Research at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and
the Colorado School of Public Health indicates that taking aspirin regularly
might reduce the risk of stroke in patients with peripheral artery disease
These are only two examples of many promising stroke
prevention studies under way across the globe. However, the best way to reduce
your risk is still to know – and act on – the factors that lead to stroke.
Everyone has some stroke risk, but many strokes can be
prevented with basic lifestyle changes. Every year, about 795,000 Americans
have a stroke, causing the deaths of 144,000 and forever changing the lives of
survivors. There are two main categories of risk factors — controllable and
uncontrollable. It is important to understand both types of risk factors.
Controllable risk factors include both lifestyle and medical factors.
Many risk factors leading to stroke are up to you. You can
control and reduce lifestyle risk factors by:
- Quitting smoking: Smoking doubles the risk for
stroke. If you stop smoking today, your risk for stroke will begin to decrease.
- Exercising regularly: A brisk walk, swim or
other exercise activity for as little as 30 minutes a day can improve your
health and might reduce your risk for stroke.
- Watching what and how much you eat: By cutting
down on sodium and fat in your diet, you might be able to lower your blood
pressure and lower your risk for stroke.
- Limiting alcohol consumption: Drinking a glass
of wine or beer or one drink each day can lower your risk for stroke (provided
that there is no other medical reason you should avoid alcohol). Remember
alcohol is a drug and can interact with other drugs you are taking.
Regular medical checkups can detect many factors that lead
to stroke that might otherwise go unnoticed. These factors include:
- High cholesterol.
- High blood pressure.
- Heart disease.
- Atrial fibrillation and carotid artery disease.
These medical risk factors can be controlled through
medication and/or lifestyle changes. It is important to take your medication as
prescribed by your doctor. If you have side effects, discuss them with your
Uncontrollable Risk Factors:
Some stroke risks are out of your control, such as:
- Being over age 55.
- Being male.
- Being African-American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific
- Having a family history of stroke.
- Previous stroke.
- Previous transient ischemic attack or “TIA.”
There is no quick fix or single way to reduce the risk of
stroke. Talk with your health care provider about what will work best for you.
Educating yourself and your family about stroke risk factors and working with
your health care professional to manage your risk is the best way to prevent a
Call 911 if:
Stroke symptoms come on suddenly. You might be having a
- You have numbness or weakness of the face, arm or
leg – especially on one side of the body.
- You’re confused and have trouble speaking or understanding.
- You’re having trouble seeing in one or both
- You have a hard time walking, dizziness, loss of
balance or coordination.
- You have a severe headache with no known cause.
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