You may not realize it, but every time you choose your lifestyle, you also choose your health, and that includes your risk of stroke. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that adopting healthy lifestyle habits can prevent up to 80% of strokes. So, you have more control over your stroke list than you might imagine. In addition, managing underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease can also reduce your stroke risk.
Another study cited by Cardiovascular Business found that more than 90% of strokes can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes and healthcare management. What does this mean? Your daily choices can either put you at risk for stroke or help prevent it.
Not convinced? Imagine a bucket filled with water. Water represents the risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity. Each time you engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking or overeating, you add more water to the bucket, and the water level rises, along with your risk of stroke. On a more positive note, every time you make healthy choices, such as exercising regularly or eating a balanced diet, you drain some water from the bucket and lower your risk of stroke.
While stroke risk increases with age, it is not just an issue for the elderly. Strokes can occur at any age, and recent studies reveal that the incidence is increasing among younger adults. Stroke prevention should be on everyone’s radar, regardless of age, especially if you have risk factors.
Lifestyle Changes That Lower Your Risk of Strokes
So, what can you do to prevent a stroke? The good news is that there are many lifestyle changes you can adopt to lower your risk. One of the most important is to maintain healthy blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and responds to lifestyle and medications.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. When the pressure in blood vessels is too high, it puts excessive force on the inner walls, causing damage. This damage, in turn, can lead to blood clots, which block blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.
So, monitor your blood pressure and take steps to manage it if it is consistently high. Strategies backed by science include adopting an unprocessed diet, regular physical activity, and stress management. If your blood pressure is only mildly elevated, this may be enough. If not, your healthcare provider may recommend a blood pressure-lowering medication. Talk to your physician about what is best for your situation.
Other lifestyle changes that can help prevent stroke include quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and regular exercise. Note that making these changes is not always easy, but the benefits are well worth the effort. What could be more important than monitoring and protecting your future health?
You Can Lower Your Risk, Even Later in Life
It’s never too late to take control of your health, especially when it comes to stroke prevention. A groundbreaking study published in the May 2020 issue of Stroke revealed that lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk of stroke, even if you don’t make them until the sixth decade of life. That’s good to know if you’re behind the curve on upgrading your lifestyle.
By adopting healthier habits like adding regular exercise to your routine, maintaining a nutritious diet, monitoring and controlling blood lipids, and managing high blood pressure, you can proactively reduce the likelihood of experiencing a stroke. This research emphasizes the crucial message that positive modifications are possible at any age and stage of life, and the advantages gained from such actions can be considerable.
Know Your Risk Factors
It is crucial to know your risk factors for stroke to take proactive steps to reduce your chances of having one. Here are some common risk factors for stroke that you should be aware of:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- Obesity or being overweight
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
- Family history of stroke or heart disease
- Sleep apnea
- Taking hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives
You don’t have control over the genes your parents handed you, but you have some control over factors like blood lipids, blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity since medications and lifestyle changes affect these factors. Plus, you can avoid unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. While genetics play a role in determining our health, we have the power to make choices that can positively impact our health outcomes.
Know the Signs and Symptoms of Strokes Too
It’s also important to be aware of the warning signs of stroke, as time is critical in treatment. Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body, sudden confusion or trouble speaking, sudden vision changes, sudden trouble walking or loss of balance, and sudden severe headache are all signs that a stroke may be occurring. Be aware of these signs, so you can take quick action if you or someone you know develops them. Early recognition is critical for stroke survival and can affect the long-term outcome.
Prevention is powerful when it comes to avoiding strokes. Eating healthily, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and managing stress can all help reduce the risk of stroke by up to 80%. A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fats and salt, is beneficial for heart health and blood pressure management. It can also help with weight control.
Regular exercise can also help maintain healthy blood pressure levels and improve cardiovascular health. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption can also help reduce stroke risk, as both habits can contribute to high blood pressure. Managing stress through techniques such as meditation, yoga, or therapy is another strategy for reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. Taking preventive action is the key to leading a healthy, stroke-free life – and living your healthiest and best life too.
- Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics–2022 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association (2023). Available at: ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000001052 (Accessed: 3 April 2023).
- Stroke (2023). Available at: cdc.gov/stroke/index.htm (Accessed: 3 April 2023).
- 2017. “Preventing Stroke Deaths.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. September 6, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/stroke/index.html.
- “Study: More than 90 Percent of Strokes Are Preventable.” 2019. Cardiovascular Business. January 23, 2019. https://cardiovascularbusiness.com/topics/clinical/vascular-endovascular/study-more-90-percent-strokes-are-preventable.
- “Stroke – What Is a Stroke? | NHLBI, NIH.” 24 Mar. 2022, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/stroke.
- “Stroke Signs and Symptoms | cdc.gov.” 04 May. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/signs_symptoms.htm.
Related Articles By Cathe:
These 5 Lifestyle Factors Can Prevent 80% of Strokes
How Much Do You Need to Exercise to Lower Your Risk of Stroke?
8 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Stroke
Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk for Stroke?
Exercise Doesn’t Just Improve Lifespan – It Enhances Health Span
Why Your Blood Vessels Love Strength Training
4 Ways Your Heart Adapts to Aerobic Exercise
Can a Single Aerobic Exercise Session Boost the Health of Your Heart?