Many people imagine a stroke victim to be older perhaps with visions of gray hair, wrinkles and health problems. However, almost one-third of all people who suffer from stroke are under the age of 65. Stroke is not affiliated with any particular age, and it can strike anyone regardless of sex, race, etc.
A stroke interrupts blood supply to the brain. Doctors sometimes refer to it as a “brain attack.” Approximately every 45 seconds another person suffers from a stroke.
With stroke becoming the third leading cause of death in the United States, you should learn early how to prevent a stroke from occurring. There are some stroke risk factors you can change and others that are hereditary. The following are guidelines to help prevent a stroke.
Risk Factors You Can Control
Lower blood pressure – Know your blood pressure level and have it checked annually. If your test results show high blood pressure, work with your doctor through diet, exercise and perhaps medication to reduce it.
Atrial fibrillation – Atrial fibrillation’s irregular heartbeat allows blood to collect in the chambers of the heart. The blood does not move and, therefore, tends to clot. This will cause a stroke if your heart moves a blood clot into your blood stream. Speak with you doctor about the symptoms of atrial fibrillation and, if detected, follow your doctor’s guidelines.
Stop smoking – Smoking causes many health concerns, including stroke. Smoking doubles your risk of stroke.
Limit alcohol intake – If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more than two drinks per day. More than two drinks per day can increase your risk of stroke by as much as three times.
Control cholesterol – Have your cholesterol tested if you haven’t recently done so. If it is high, follow your doctor’s instructions for controlling it, which may be through diet, exercise or medication. A high fiber diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can lower your cholesterol by 6 to 9 percent.
Diabetes – Be tested for diabetes. Having diabetes increases your chances for having a stroke. Follow your doctor’s instructions for controlling the condition.
Exercise more – It might feel difficult to get started, but for as little as 30 minutes a day, you can reduce your chances of having a stroke. A brisk walk, swimming, bicycling, dancing or aerobics all can improve your health.
Consume less salt and fat – Decreasing the amount of salt and fat in your diet lowers your blood pressure, thereby, reducing your chances of a stroke.
Manage circulation problems – If you have circulation problems, manage them with your doctor’s instructions. Problems with the heart, arteries or veins can increase your stroke risk.
Lifestyle Risk Factors
Other less-known risk factors related to lifestyle include:
Geographic location – Strokes are more common in the southeastern United States.
Socioeconomic factors – Some evidence shows that strokes are more common among low-income people.
Drug abuse – Intravenous drug abuse and cocaine can increase your chances of a stroke.
Hereditary Risk Factors
Changing the previously mentioned lifestyle stroke risk factors can help you reduce your chances of having a stroke. However, the hereditary stroke risk factors cannot be controlled.
Age – The chance of having a stroke more than doubles for each decade of life after age 55.
Race – African Americans have a higher risk of death and disability from a stroke, partly because they have greater incidence of high blood pressure.
Gender – Men have more strokes than women. However, more women die from strokes – possibly influenced by giving birth and use of birth control pills.
Diabetes – While treatable, having diabetes still increases your stroke risk.
Heredity – Your chance of a stroke goes up if there is a stroke history in the family.
History – If you previously had a stroke, it increases your risk of having another one.
The Benefits of Stroke Prevention
Understanding stroke prevention will help you reduce your chances of having one. Control the risk factors now and there will be a decreased chance that you will have to watch for stroke warning signs later.
The University of Tennessee Medical Center’s Brain and Spine Institute features a Stroke Center dedicated to reducing the long-term impact via a stroke unit, which offers rehabilitation for stroke victims and advanced technology. The center offers the latest imaging technology in order to provide minimally invasive treatment.
In addition, the Stroke Center provides patients with rapid medical attention, a stroke coordinator and a team with stroke expertise as well as early identification of stroke rehabilitation needs. The center also focuses on public education including stroke prevention and the detection of early warning signs of stroke.