For American Stroke Month, learn more about its controllable risk factors.
Did you know an estimated 1.9 million neurons and 14 billion synapses are lost per minute during a stroke? That’s why every second counts. Anyone can have a stroke, but your chances increase if you have certain risk factors. The best way to protect yourself or your loved ones from a stroke is to know the risks and how to manage them.
You can make changes to your lifestyle to lower your risk of stroke by asking yourself the following questions:
Is my blood pressure normal? High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and the most important controllable risk factor. If you’ve had a stroke, lowering your blood pressure can help prevent future strokes.
Can I quit smoking? Smoking damages blood vessels, clogs arteries and raises blood pressure — doubling your risk of stroke.
“Smoking increases risk factors to vascular health as well as other cancers,” says Sadie Wangler, stroke program manager at Renown. “If you want to reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack, quitting smoking is the first step — and Renown can help you with this.”
Learn more: Renown Health Quit Tobacco Program
Do I make time to exercise 30 minutes a day? Many studies link consistent exercise habits with lower stroke risk. Also, being overweight contributes to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, all increasing your stroke risk. You don’t need to run a marathon — just commit to making time to move each day.
“Take a walk around the neighborhood or a leisurely bike ride along the river,” Wangler says. “These are less strenuous but effective means of moving to keep your vessels in your heart and brain as healthy as possible.”
Do I regularly eat processed food and sugar? Eating less cholesterol and fat, especially saturated and trans fats, may reduce the fatty deposits (plaque) in your arteries. Also, eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day may reduce your stroke risk. If you are diabetic, follow recommendations to get your diabetes under control.
“Giving forth that effort on a daily basis will help prevent disease and reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease,” Wangler says.
Do I drink alcohol regularly? We’ve all heard the studies saying a glass of wine a day may be beneficial to health, but studies disagree on this point. It is known that heavy alcohol consumption increases your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Heavy consumption is considered more than four (250ml or 8 ounce) glasses of wine per week. Alcohol can also trigger an irregular heartbeat know as atrial fibrillation (aFib), which greatly increases your risk for stroke.
While you can control the risk factors mentioned above, a few are uncontrollable. These risk factors include:
Age: Your risk of stroke doubles for each decade of life after age 55.
Heredity: If you have a family member who has suffered a stroke, it can increase your chance of stroke.
Race: African Americans, Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders have a higher risk of stroke.
Gender: Men carry a higher risk of stroke, yet more women die each year from stroke, as they live longer.
If you or your friends/family need any assistance with tobacco cessation, drug rehabilitation, or would like stroke education and prevention materials, please contact Sadie Wangler, Renown Stroke Program manager, at 775-982-2948.