Knowing what increases your risk of having a stroke is important so you can be prepared. Having a family member who has had a stroke, having had a stroke previously and aging are all things we can’t control, but increase our risk. Other things that increase your risk are being overweight, depressed, or having uncontrolled diabetes. Once you are aware, that knowledge can guide your choices and lead you to a healthier outcome.
Know your Numbers
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two of the biggest causes of stroke. Check in with your doctor and ask what your blood pressure is and have them look at your cholesterol levels with you. An ideal blood pressure is 120/80 and keeping your cholesterol under 200 is generally recommended.
The Surgeon General recommends that adults get two and a half hours of moderately intense activity each week, so get your blood flowing and your heart pumping! If you can’t fit in long workouts, break it up. Take 10 minutes of your lunch break and walk around your office building, use the stairs instead of the elevator, march in place during commercials and park at the far end of the parking lot to get in a few extra steps. Exercise helps keep you at a healthy weight, improves your mood, and lowers your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Eat For Your Body and Mind
Make your meals colorful by adding dark greens, a variety of vegetables and plump fruits wherever you can. Choose a low or nonfat option when possible, eat whole grains, and cook with olive oil instead of butter. By making a few simple changes, you can greatly impact your health. High fiber and low fat options keep things moving; not just in your digestive track, but your blood flow too.
Squash the Smoking Habit
Smokers are twice as likely to have a stroke as non-smokers. Smoking thickens your blood, increases plaque collection in your arteries, and increases clot formation, all upping your chances of stroke. Quitting is hard, but well worth the benefits. Talk to your doctor about counseling, programs and smoking cessation aids like patches and gum to help along the way.
Limit the Libations
Alcohol can increase your blood pressure in high quantities, so drink moderately. Limit yourself to one drink for women and two drinks for men per day and you will minimize the risks.
Trust your instincts and if something feels wrong, get help immediately. The National Stroke Association came up with a helpful acronym to make it easy to remember the basics.