Strokes are a huge cause of long-lasting disability, and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every forty seconds an American has a stroke; every four minutes one of these leads to death. Who is most at risk? A wide swath of the population can benefit from awareness and prevention.
Anyone 55 or older, and anyone with a history of strokes or mini-strokes, called ischemic attacks, is at risk. Those with a family history of stroke should be mindful. While men are more likely to die from strokes, more women have them. African Americans and Hispanics suffer a higher percentage of strokes than others.
5 Lifestyle Changes
It takes less than a minute for a stroke to change a persons life forever, says Dr. Ji Y. Chong, site chief of neurology and director of the Stroke Center at New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital. Because an ounce of prevention is often worth a pound of cure, with the goal of improving and saving lives, Dr. Chong recommends five simple lifestyle changes.
Reduce salt intake, which in turn reduces high blood pressure, a top cause of stroke. A healthy blood pressure is 130/80 or below. Consider flavoring foods with other spices and eat fewer processed foods. Look at food labels. Be careful at restaurants; the sodium content when dining out is typically unknown.
Eat a heart-healthy diet, which means creating a healthy balance between your good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). Cholesterol levels should be 200 mg/dl or below. The way to achieve this is by having many high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts in your diet. Cut out or limit high-calorie, processed foods and beverages. These lack nutrients and can raise cholesterol, in turn promoting heart disease and stroke.
Stop smoking, now, as smokers are twice as likely to suffer a stroke than others. Smoking clearly harms the lungs, but it also harms the brain. Overall physical functioning is impaired as smoking damages blood vessels, raises blood pressure and encourages clogged arteries.
Exercise a few times a week, aiming for at least 30 minutes. It needn't be strenuous, and moderate exercise promises to improve everyone's overall health. Your risk of high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure go up if you are obese or overweight, setting you up for risk of stroke.
Limit alcohol because there is a link between drinking more than one to two drinks a day and elevated blood pressure. With high blood pressure you risk ischemic attack and hemorrhagic stroke.
Healthy diet and lifestyle choices are extremely important for avoiding stroke and are beneficial to overall functioning and well-being. Additionally, it is valuable to be up to date on what to do in assisting yourself and those around you should an urgent need arise. The American Heart Association developed the FAST acronym because the best chance of recovery from a stroke occurs if it is recognized and treated early.
F is for face. Pay attention to any facial weakness.
A is for arm because arm weakness is another revealing sign.
S is for speaking difficulties.
T is the reminder that it is Time to call 911.
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