A healthy lifestyle can impact ALL areas of your life. When you talk to your doctor about reducing your risk of stroke, he/she will be on board with you reducing your risk. Studies have found that over 80% of stroke risk factors are under our control, which means making some lifestyle changes should decrease your risk. But what changes will reduce your risk the most?
Major stroke risk indicators
The lifestyle changes that will have the biggest impact on reducing your stroke risk include reducing hypertension, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and stopping smoking and heavy drinking.
The number one factor in strokes is high blood pressure. A recent study out of the UK found that 55% of stroke victims had hypertension at the time of their stroke. Another study out of Korea looking at nearly 2.5 million young adults found that high blood pressure (aka hypertension) increased the risk of premature heart disease and stroke by up to 85%. New research in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that aggressive treatment of high blood pressure can cut stroke deaths by one-third.
These are just a few of the studies that indicate that lowering your blood pressure is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of stroke.
Body weight and diet
Obesity is a severe problem in the United States, having increased dramatically over the past 50 years. In 1976-1980, the obesity rate was 15%, doubling to 30.9% in 1999-2000; as of 2017-2018, the average obesity rate is a whopping 42%. Add to that another 30%+ of American adults who are overweight. This is a severe health crisis, as obesity is a factor not only in stroke but also in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers, which are themselves stroke-risk factors. Obesity also causes increased blood pressure, the number one cause of stroke.
Quantity of food is not the only culprit; a poor diet includes eating processed foods, fast food, junk food, and sodas. Because of the prevalence of these quick, easy foods in the American diet, the rate of childhood obesity is also on a steep incline, with a shocking 19.3% of children ages 2-19 being obese.
Smoking and heavy drinking
The number of smokers has decreased significantly over the last few decades, even as the rate of obesity has skyrocketed. This is fortunate because some studies have shown that smokers are six times more likely to have a stroke than non-smokers who never experienced second-hand smoke. Smoking also makes you twice as likely to die from a stroke. Smoking introduces many toxins to the body and the brain, damages blood vessels and lungs, and increases blood pressure.
Sensible drinking, up to 14 servings per week, is not associated with health problems, and in fact, certain studies show some benefit to the occasional glass of wine. However, excessive drinking increases blood pressure.
Making lifestyle changes
If you have hypertension, that is the first problem you should be targeting. Any factor in your life that increases your blood pressure – stress, body weight, diet, smoking, or drinking – needs to be immediately addressed.
But what if you have several blood pressure-raising factors? Talk to your doctor about your particular situation, but a poor diet would probably be the first change you should address. This is because by addressing your diet, you will have the greatest impact on every other factor.
Eliminate junk food. This in itself will be a challenge, because the unhealthy sugars (like high fructose corn syrup), carbs, and bad fats (like partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil or trans fats) are in themselves addicting. But this is a critical first step.
Another important step is to exercise. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with many health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
Make the diet and exercise changes with loved ones in order to encourage everyone to get healthier and fitter together. Not only will you be building and strengthening your relationships, but you will also be helping each other live longer, healthier lives.
If you smoke, stop. Yes, it will probably be harder than giving up junk food, but it’s as serious a risk factor as hypertension, and it is one of the causes of hypertension.
Your doctor may also recommend blood pressure-reducing drugs to help you as you work towards your goal of lowering it through a healthier lifestyle. There are also certain prescription medications that can make it easier for you to quit smoking.
If you are at a high risk of stroke, talk to your doctor about using Neuralert Stroke Detection wristbands as an important safeguard so that you can have an early-warning signal if a stroke does begin to come on. Our state-of-the-art, AI-driven technology wristbands look like smartwatches and can detect warning signs of a stroke within minutes. Early stroke treatment saves lives and can often prevent or limit long-term side effects. Ask your doctor about adding Neuralert’s Stroke Detection wristbands to your health program.