Lower Your Risk of Stroke with These Lifestyle Tips

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Ashmar Mandou

Stroke is the fifth cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or ruptures. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so it and brain cells die. Since May marks Stroke Awareness Month we have compiled lifestyle tips to help lower your risk of stroke.

Know Your Numbers: Keep Blood Pressure Low

High blood pressure exerts continuous pressure on the walls of the arteries. If it is left untreated, it damages and weakens your arteries, making them more likely to clog or burst and cause a stroke. Hypertension is the biggest contributing risk factor to stroke. Making lifestyle changes that reduce your stroke risk will also help you manage your blood pressure. You will also need to take blood pressure medicine every day. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you notice any side effects. But don’t stop taking medication unless directed to do so. Ask your doctor what your target blood pressure should be. Using a home blood pressure monitor can help you track your pressure and know if your medication is working.

Revamp Your Diet

Improving your diet will address a number of risk factors for stroke — including being overweight. Although there are many approaches to eating healthy, following these basic guidelines can help simplify the process:

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

  • Stock up on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Buy produce in an array of colors — reds, oranges, yellows and greens — to get a range of nutrients.
  • Buy only whole-grain bread, cereal, rice, and pasta.
  • Choose poultry, fish, and lean meats.
  • Add nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans and peas) to your meals several times a week.
  • Buy only fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Use healthy fats such as olive, canola, and other vegetable oils or plant-based stanols, and look for trans-free margarines.
  • Toss your salt shaker. Don’t add salt while cooking or at the table.
  • Read food labels and avoid foods high in sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat.
  • Try to have at least one meatless meal a week. Eating more of a plant-based diet makes it easier to limit cholesterol and unhealthy fats.

Make Your Move

When it comes to the benefits of exercise, there is really no downside to moving your body. However, because you’ve had a stroke, you should talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Once you get the OK, these tips can help you get moving.

  • If you have disabilities from your stroke, work with your doctor or physical therapist to tailor an exercise program that works for you.
  • For most people, taking a 20 to 30 minute walk every day is ideal. If that length of time is too much for you right now, break it up into two or three 10-minute chunks throughout the day.
  • Gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days. Moderate-intensity level activities include brisk walking, gardening, water aerobics, and wheeling yourself around if you are in a wheel chair.

Moderation in All Things — Especially Alcohol

Heavy alcohol use — more than one to two drinks a day — increases the risk of stroke by 69 percent in people who haven’t had a stroke. Excessive drink can also increase your blood pressure. Moderate alcohol use — defined as two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women — may actually help protect against stroke. Any more than that may put your health at risk. However, if you don’t drink, there is no reason to start. If you need to cut back, avoid having alcohol in the house, try not to drink every day, and learn to savor alcohol — not gulp it. If you feel like you can’t control your drinking, talk with your doctor about how to stop. If you would like to learn about Stroke Awareness Month, visit www.strokeassociation.org.

Comments are closed.