Eight ways to protect yourself from a stroke
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is blocked, eventually killing brain cells. Some risk factors for stroke, such as age, ethnicity, race or gender, can’t be changed. But medication and simple lifestyle adjustments can address the health conditions that may determine whether a stroke is in your future.
1. Treat heart conditions
Cardiovascular problems greatly raise the odds for stroke. One reason for this is that risk factors for heart disease and stroke are similar; many lifestyle changes that benefit your heart also will reduce stroke risks.
Atrial fibrillation especially increases stroke risk – if you have this irregular-heartbeat condition, you’re five times more likely to have a stroke – but those diagnosed do have several treatment options.
2. Regulate your blood pressure
You can lower your blood pressure by getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, eating a healthy diet and limiting your salt intake to one teaspoon a day. Your doctor may also decide to prescribe blood pressure medication.
3. Check your cholesterol
A total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL is considered normal, while 240 and above is considered too high. Cholesterol can form plaque that attaches to the walls of your arteries, narrowing the channels for blood flow.
You can lower your cholesterol by reducing alcohol and salt intake, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating foods high in soluble fiber, such as legumes, whole grains and some fruits. Prescribed medication also can help manage cholesterol.
4. Control diabetes
Over time, high blood sugar caused by diabetes can damage blood-vessel walls, limiting blood flow.
Monitoring blood sugar and treating your diabetes with medicine as directed by your doctor is vital. A balanced diet and regular exercise also can help keep diabetes under control.
5. Lose weight
Being overweight or obese is linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, all contributing factors for stroke. Doctors typically recommend a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or lower (you can find your BMI using the National Institute for Health’s online calculator).
6. Quit smoking
Smoking can damage blood vessels, increase plaque buildup in blood vessels, make blood more likely to clot, and cause blood vessels to narrow and thicken. If you don’t already smoke, don’t start. And if you do smoke, quit as soon as possible.
7. Get regular exercise
Being physically inactive contributes to high cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as obesity, which can lead to even more health problems that increase your risk for stroke.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend two hours and 30 minutes of physical activity each week for adults. The exercise can be as simple as a brisk walk.
8. Limit alcohol consumption
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. The CDC recommends no more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women.
Are you at risk for stroke?
Are you a smoker?
Do you get enough exercise? For adults, the CDC recommends 2 1/2 hours of moderate activity every week, combined with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days each week.
Do you have atrial fibrillation? (Atrial fibrillation is a rapid and irregular heart rhythm that originates from the top chambers of the heart called the atria.)
Do you have diabetes?
Has anyone in your family had a stroke?
Are you overweight?
What is your blood pressure?
What's your cholesterol level?
Your answers on this quiz will not be stored or shared.
If you’re concerned about your stroke risk, talk to your primary care physician today about a referral to Ohio State’s Comprehensive Stroke Center. If you need a primary care physician, call 800-293-5123 to find a physician near you.
Risk factor: High
Your risk factors suggest that your risk of a stroke is high. We recommend that you ask your primary care physician for a referral to Ohio State's Comprehensive Stroke Center. If you need a primary care physician, call 800-293-5123 to find a physician near you.
Risk factor: Low
You are considered low-risk for stroke. You're doing very well at controlling your stroke risk.
If you're still concerned about your risk, talk to your primary care physician today about ways to reduce your risk of stroke. If you need a primary care physician, call 800-293-5123 to find a physician near you.
Risk factor: Caution (medium risk)
This is a good start. Continue to work on reducing your stroke risk.
If you're concerned about your risk, talk to your primary care physician today about ways to reduce your risk of stroke. If you need a primary care physician, call 800-293-5123 to find a physician near you.
Four out of five strokes are preventable. Though you cannot change certain risk factors, such as your age or gender, many of the ways to reduce your stroke risk are in your control.
The Ohio State Comprehensive Stroke Center can help you reduce your risk. Call 800-293-5123 to find a physician near you.