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Take Action to Prevent Stroke: Tips for Reducing Stroke Risk Factors

Mar 17, 2010

Approximately 795,000 strokes will occur this year. But, did you know up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable? While certain stroke risk factors cannot be controlled – family history of stroke, being over age 55 – there are lifestyle and medical changes that can be made to help avoid a first stroke.

“Oftentimes patients underestimate the impact lifestyle changes can have in preventing a stroke,” said Daniel Katz, M.D., chief of vascular surgery at Weiss Memorial Hospital. “There is no doubt that maintaining healthy habits, like exercising and eating well, and reducing harmful behaviors, like smoking, can significantly lower one’s chances of having a stroke.”

 To reduce your risk of suffering a stroke, follow these healthful hints from the experts at Weiss Memorial Hospital.

  • Keep Blood Pressure Down: As many as 73 million Americans have high blood pressure and only about a third are aware that they have it. With high blood pressure being a leading cause of stroke, it is important to work with your physician to keep your blood pressure under control. Dietary changes, increased fitness, medication or a combination of all three may be recommended.
  • Quit Smoking: Smoking causes your heart to work harder, allowing blood clots to form more easily and doubling the chances of suffering a stroke. Talk to your nurse or physician to develop a plan to help you quit and get the support you need from such groups as Nicotine Anonymous to kick the habit for good.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Packing on extra pounds, particularly if you fall in the obese range, puts strain on your vascular system. It also causes high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, all of which increase the likelihood of having a stroke. To keep your weight under control:
    • Eat healthfully – Your diet should be low in calories, saturated fats and salt. Make sure to eat five servings of vegetables and fruits daily.
    • Exercise regularly – Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day. Walking, biking, swimming and aerobics are all good fitness activities.

Speak to your physician about the appropriateness of a carotid ultrasound to assess for carotid artery blockages.