Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. Each year, about as many Americans have a stroke as a heart attack, but 80% of all strokes are preventable. With May being American Stroke Month and National High Blood Pressure Education month, it is important to know these few simple steps that can lead to living a healthier life.
The first step is to manage your blood pressure and control your cholesterol. If you are unsure of what your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are, be sure to visit your healthcare provider and attend regular checkups to learn more how to keep your stroke risks low. Nearly one in six American adults do not even know they are living with high blood pressure. Lowering your systolic (top) number by 10 or your diastolic (bottom) number by 5, can cut your risk of stroke death in half. By controlling your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries the chance to stay clear of any blockages.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can also help manage your cholesterol, in addition, it can reduce your blood sugar. A healthy diet is your best weapon for fighting a stroke. Try incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your meals and limit sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg per day. If you are not a big fan of vegetables, visit Heart.org for a collection of easy, heart healthy recipes!
While you are making changes to your diet, develop a workout plan to help you get more active and lose weight. Being active just 30 minutes a day can significantly improve your heart and brain health while preventing stroke. With the obesity rate increasing, and nearly 70 percent of Americans being overweight, shedding those extra pounds can help lower blood pressure and reduce the burden on your heart and lungs. Lastly, if you are a smoker, stop smoking! Stroke risk is two to four times higher among smokers.
Although there are some risk factors you can’t control, such as your age and family history, always remember the word F-A-S-T to help you recognize if you or someone else is having a stroke. These four letters can help save a life; Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call 911.
More than six million Americans are stroke survivors. By knowing these symptoms and making these simple changes in your lifestyle, you can make a huge impact for what happens later. The American Stroke Association can help you find ways to prevent, beat, and treat stroke!
To learn more about how stroke is preventable, visit www.strokeassociation.org.