When it comes to preventing a stroke, simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference.
Strokes occur when blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the brain burst or are blocked by a clot. When that happens, brain cells begin to die, affecting a person’s memory and ability to control muscles.
Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and in Kentucky, but there’s good news: Nearly 80 percent of all strokes are preventable.
In celebration of American Stroke Month, we’ve put together a list of things you can do to live a healthier lifestyle and better your chances of avoiding a stroke.
- Get moving. Regular physical activity will help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, two of the biggest risk factors for stroke. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week. Something as simple as a brisk walk or bike ride with a friend will work wonders for your overall health.
- Stop smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to experience a stroke as nonsmokers. That’s because smoking thickens blood and increases the likelihood of clots. If you’re struggling to quit smoking, ask your doctor for help. And check out our blog with tips and resources that can help you or someone you know start on the path toward success.
- Eat your vegetables. And beans, whole grains and nuts, too – all of which are staples of a healthy diet. Improving your diet will help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and help you maintain a healthy weight. Check out our guide for making healthy food choices.
- Drink less. Alcohol can increase blood pressure and the risk of stroke. Moderation is the key: For men, no more than two drinks a day, and for women, no more than one.
- Learn about Afib. Atrial fibrillation, also known as Afib, is a type of irregular heartbeat. If left untreated, Afib can cause blood clots in the heart that can move to the brain and cause a stroke. Talk to your doctor about Afib if you experience symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath. Learn more about the UK Gill Heart Institute’s Heart Rhythm Program and listen to a podcast with our Afib specialist, Dr. Ted Wright.
- Understand the things you can’t control. Although improving your diet, ramping up your activity and living a healthy lifestyle can all decrease your risk for stroke, there are some risk factors you cannot control. Things like age, gender and race all play a role in stroke risk, and even though you can’t change those factors, it’s important to understand if you’re more susceptible. Visit the National Stroke Association for more information about uncontrollable risk factors.
- At the UK Comprehensive Stroke Center, we offer treatment, prevention and rehabilitation services for stroke patients. Learn more about our program.
- Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter, HealthMatters, for health and wellness information delivered to your inbox.