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In the United States, stroke ranks as the fifth leading cause of death and as the top leading cause for serious long-term disability.
Though your age and having a family history of stroke make you more susceptible to stroke, there are some factors you can control.
Here are five ways to help decrease your chances of stroke:
Lower your blood pressure
Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors and can double or even quadruple your chance for stroke. Ideally, your blood pressure should be less than 135/85. Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure, take medications if necessary, lower your sodium intake and avoid high cholesterol. Include low-sodium foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet.
Lose weight and eat healthy
Obesity increases your chance for stroke. Losing as few as 10 pounds can help decrease your risk. You should also address other health issues (including the other stroke risks) that come with carrying extra weight. Talk to your doctor about a plan to shed the pounds and adopt a healthy diet that includes vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish and whole grains, and limits added sugars, sodium and processed foods. Try adding some heart-healthy recipes to your diet.
Smoking can thicken your blood and increase the amount of plaque build-up in your arteries — two things that can accelerate clot formation. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, ask your doctor for help in your effort to quit. Want to quit smoking? Here’s how to stick with your plan.
Exercise more, or start exercising
Get moving, or move more. Physical activity is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. If you aren’t active, develop a plan and work towards a goal of 20-30 minutes of activity each day. If you are already active, keep it up and try to increase your activity. Learn some ways to make this summer your summer of fitness.
Manage health conditions
While high blood pressure is one of the bigger risk factors for stroke, other conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol can also increase your chance for stroke. Be sure to work with your doctor to develop a plan to manage those conditions and stay on top of taking any prescribed medications. Getting regular exercise and losing excess weight also aid in managing other health conditions.
In addition to making some lifestyle changes, it is important to know the signs of stroke. The National Stroke Association recommends using the word FAST to remember the warning signs:
F: Face. Is one side of the face drooping when you smile?
A: Arms. When you lift both arms does one arm drift back down?
S: Speech. Is speech slurred or does it sound odd?
T: Time. If you see these signs in yourself or anyone, call 911 immediately.
“Time is brain.” That’s what doctors say when it comes to treating a patient who’s having a stroke. Every second can mean the difference between life and death, total independence or long-term disability. At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we strive to provide the fastest, most efficient and effective stroke care possible. Learn about our stroke and vascular services.
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