American Stroke Association: 7 habits to help prevent a stroke

During May, which is American Stroke Month, the American Stroke Association is sharing seven habits to help prevent a stroke.

Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by not smoking, making healthy food choices, getting enough physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and treating conditions such as high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

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1. Don’t Smoke: Smoke can increase your blood pressure, among many other health issues, and it’s the number one controllable risk factor for stroke. Cigarette smoking, vaping and tobacco products in general are dangerous for your health. Quitting is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and add years to your life.

2. Manage blood pressure: Nothing causes more strokes than uncontrolled high blood pressure. Of the 116.4 million people in the U.S. who have high blood pressure, fewer than half have it under control. Lowering your blood pressure by just 20 points could cut your risk of dying from a stroke by half. A good blood pressure should be less than 120/80.

3. Be physically active: A good starting goal is at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week. Find forms of activity you like and will stick with to build more opportunities to be active in your routine. 

4. Eat a healthy diet: Healthy eating starts with healthier food choices. You don’t need to stop eating your favorite meals, just use substitutions to make them healthier. Learn what to look for at the grocery store, restuarants, your workplace and other eating occasions.

5. Maintain a healthy weight: The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight go beyond improved energy and smaller clothing sizes. By losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, you’re also likely to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. 

6. Control Cholesterol: Having large amounts of LDL cholesterol in the blood, the “bad” cholesterol, it can cause build up and blood clots which leads to a heart attack or stroke. Reducing your fat intake, especially trans fat, more often found in fried foods and baked goods, can help reduce your cholesterol. Adding more foods with omega-3 fatty acids like fish and nuts, as well as soluble fiber and whey protein helps in managing bad cholesterol.

7. Control blood sugar: By managing your diabetes and working with your health care team, you may reduce your risk of stroke. Every two minutes, an adult with diabetes in the U.S. is hospitalized for a stroke. At age 60, someone with type 2 diabetes and a history of stroke may have a life expectancy that’s 12 years shorter than someone without both conditions.

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Reduce the risk of recurrent stroke: Not all strokes can be prevented and people who’ve had one are at high risk of having a second one. Stroke survivors should work with their doctor on a plan to reduce their secondary stroke risk factors as there may be lifestyle chances and medications that may help prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of a second stoke.

Know the signs of a stroke, use the acronym F.A.S.T. to remember the most common signs of stroke:

Face drooping - Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

Arm weakness - Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does on arm drift downward?

Speech difficulty - Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.

Time to call 911 - If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 and get to a hospital immediately. 

For more information, visit www.StrokeAssociation.org/StrokeMonth.

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