How can you prevent a stroke from happening?
You can lower your risk of stroke by managing modifiable risk factors.
Strokes occur due to the obstruction of blood flow to the brain. Two types of strokes obstruct the blood flow to the brain.
- Ischemic stroke: This type of stroke occurs due to the formation of clots.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: This type of stroke occurs due to bleeding in the brain.
Some irreversible factors, such as age and family history, are likely to increase the risk of stroke. These factors cannot be modified. However, many such preventable or modifiable factors can help prevent strokes.
Here are several ways to start reining in your risks today to prevent stroke before it happens.
- Treat hypertension: Hypertension is the most potent risk factor for stroke. It increases the risk of stroke by two- to four-fold before the age of 80. Hypertension is associated with thickened artery walls and the deposition of cholesterol or other fats to form plaques. High blood pressure can weaken the arteries and can make them burst, leading to hemorrhagic stroke. Several methods to control high blood pressure include
- Maintaining a proper weight
- Avoiding drugs that raise blood pressure
- Cutting down on salt
- Eating fruits and vegetables to increase potassium levels
- Exercising regularly
- Monitoring and controlling blood pressure
- Quit cigarette smoking: Cigarette smoke causes a two-fold increase in the risk of ischemic stroke and a four-fold increase in the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Smoking can increase the risk of stroke in the following ways
- It promotes the buildup of fatty substances in the main neck artery (carotid artery) that supplies blood to the brain.Nicotine raises blood pressure and carbon monoxide from smoking reduces the oxygen supply to the brain.
- Cigarette smoke thickens the blood leading to clot formation.
- Smoking promotes aneurysm formation.
- Medications or therapy may help you to quit smoking.
- Manage heart health: Some heart disorders can result in blood clots that may break loose and block vessels leading to the brain, which include
- Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
- Enlargement of one of the heart’s chambers
- Coronary artery disease
- Valve defects
Medications, medical procedures and surgery can treat these disorders.
- Limit alcohol: High alcohol content can raise blood pressure and triglycerides. Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men to help reduce side effects. One drink means 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
- Treat diabetes: Diabetes can damage blood vessels over time and lead to clot formation inside the vessels. It can increase the risk of stroke by two to four times. High blood sugar management involves
- Regularly monitoring blood sugar levels
- Taking anti-diabetic medications
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercise more: Exercise helps lower weight and maintain normal blood pressure. Exercise at a moderate intensity at least five times a week.
- Walk daily for 30 minutes.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Take professional guidance on how much and what type of exercise is good for you.
- If you cannot perform exercise for 30 minutes continuously, break it up into several 10- to 15-minute sessions throughout the day.
- Lower cholesterol levels: Too much cholesterol can clog the arteries and lead to heart attack and stroke. Diet, exercise and cholesterol-lowering medications may keep cholesterol levels in check.
Medically Reviewed on 10/21/2020
Medscape Medical Reference
Harvard Medical School