Despite advances in medicine, strokes remain the leading cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in America. Up to 80 percent of stroke are ischemic in nature; thus, may be preventable to some degree. According to the National Stroke Association, there are nearly 7 million stroke survivors in America. Lowering your risk of stroke is, for the most part, focuses on lifestyle changes- easily doable and cost effective. Check out these ideas on how you may be able to reduce your personal risk of stroke.
A simple exercise regimen, averaging 150 minutes over a week, is recommended to improve overall health, as well as reduce the risk of several chronic diseases (hypertension, heart disease and stroke). Find an activity you enjoy, encourage family and friends to join you, and slowly increase your activity while building stamina. Examples of simple exercises include walking, biking, yoga, and swimming.
Lowering your salt/sodium intake is encouraged. People over 50 years of age should limit their sodium intake to 1500mg/daily. The recommendation for healthy persons is 2300 mg/daily. Learn to read nutrition labels, including sodium contents, calorie counts and serving sizes.
Limiting alcohol intake (if you drink alcohol to start with) is encouraged. Women should have 1 drink daily and men should have 2 drinks per day (maximum). Again, be sure to read labels and understand what a true serving size is for your alcohol beverage of choice. Also, be aware that certain medication can interact with alcohol.
Lowering stress levels is beneficial for everyone. Good sleep hygiene is important (including 7 hours of sleep nightly as a recommendation). Also, skipping caffeine in late afternoon/evening hours, and avoiding late night reading, watching television, and exercise have helped many people regulate their sleep patterns.
Weight loss (if needed) is encouraged to lower your risk of stroke, as well as improve your overall health. Speak to your healthcare provider, and seek out education on a well-balanced diet that supports your food preferences, as well as your nutritional needs. Slow steady weight loss (1-2 pounds) per week has been shown to be the most effective goal, in long term sustained weight loss.
For more information on stroke risk reduction, check with your local chapters of the American Heart Association (www.heart.org) or the National Stroke Association (www.stroke.org).