7 things you can do to prevent a stroke – Harvard

Regardless of your age or family history, a stroke doesn’t have to be inevitable. Here are some ways to protect yourself starting today, Harvard Health Publications said.

But , what is a stroke?

A stroke is a “brain attack.”  It can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost, according to the National Stroke Association.

Stroke by the Numbers
•    Each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke.
    •    A stroke happens every 40 seconds.
    •    Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.
    •    Every 4 minutes someone dies from stroke.
    •    Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.
    •    Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.

Age makes us more susceptible to having a stroke, as does having a mother, father, or other close relative who has had a stroke.


You can’t reverse the years or change your family history, but there are many other stroke risk factors that you can control—provided that you’re aware of them. “Knowledge is power,” says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. “If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk.”

Here are seven ways to start reining in your risks today, before a stroke has the chance to strike.

1 Lower blood pressure
High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled. “High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke in both men and women,” Dr. Rost says. “Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference women can make to their vascular health.”
Your ideal goal: Maintain a blood pressure of less than 120/80. But for some, a less aggressive goal (such as 140/90) may be more appropriate.
How to achieve it:
•    Reduce the salt in your diet to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (about a half teaspoon).
•    Avoid high-cholesterol foods, such as burgers, cheese, and ice cream.
•    Eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, one serving of fish two to three times a week, and several daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy.
•    Get more exercise — at least 30 minutes of activity a day, and more, if possible.
•    Quit smoking, if you smoke.
If needed, take blood pressure medicines.

2 Lose weight
Obesity, as well as the complications linked to it (including high blood pressure and diabetes), raises your odds of having a stroke. If you’re overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can have a real impact on your stroke risk.
Your goal: Keep your body mass index (BMI) at 25 or less.
How to achieve it:
•    Try to eat no more than 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day (depending on your activity level and your current BMI).
•    Increase the amount of exercise you do with activities like walking, golfing, or playing tennis, and by making activity part of every single day.  (Check out my Page – How to lose weight – and keep it off for details.)

3 Exercise more
Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but it also stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer.
Your goal: Exercise at a moderate intensity at least five days a week.
How to achieve it:
•    Take a walk around your neighborhood every morning after breakfast.
•    Start a fitness club with friends.
•    When you exercise, reach the level at which you’re breathing hard, but you can still talk.
•    Take the stairs instead of an elevator when you can.
•    If you don’t have 30 consecutive minutes to exercise, break it up into 10- to 15-minute sessions a few times each day. (Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more.

4 Drink — in moderation
What you’ve heard is true. Drinking can make you less likely to have a stroke — up to a point. “Studies show that if you have about one drink per day, your risk may be lower,” says to Dr. Rost. “Once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply.”

Your goal: Drink alcohol in moderation.
How to achieve it:
•    Have one glass of alcohol a day.
•    Make red wine your first choice, because it contains resveratrol, which is thought to protect the heart and brain.
•    Watch your portion sizes. A standard-sized drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce beer, or 1.5-ounce glass of hard liquor.

5 Treat atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. Those clots can then travel to the brain, producing a stroke. “Atrial fibrillation carries almost a fivefold risk of stroke, and should be taken seriously,” Dr. Rost says.
Your goal: If you have atrial fibrillation, get it treated.
How to achieve it:
•    If you have symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath, see your doctor for an exam.
•    You may need to take blood thinners such as high-dose aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin) to reduce your stroke risk from atrial fibrillation. Your doctors can guide you through this treatment.

6 Treat diabetes
Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them.
Your goal: Keep your blood sugar under control.
How to achieve it:
•    Monitor your blood sugar as directed by your doctor.
•    Use diet, exercise, and medicines to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.

7 Quit smoking
Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. “Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stroke risk significantly,” Dr. Rost says.
Your goal: Quit smoking.
How to achieve it:
•    Ask your doctor for advice on the most appropriate way for you to quit.
•    Use quit-smoking aids, such as nicotine pills or patches, counseling, or medicine.
•    Don’t give up. Most smokers need several tries to quit. See each attempt as bringing you one step closer to successfully beating the habit. (Check out my Page – How many ways does smoking harm you? to read more.

Identify a stroke F-A-S-T

Too many people ignore the signs of stroke because they question whether their symptoms are real. “My recommendation is, don’t wait if you have any unusual symptoms,” Dr. Rost advises. “Women should listen to their bodies and trust their instincts. If something is off, get professional help right away.”
The National Stroke Association has created an easy acronym to help you remember, and act on, the signs of a stroke.

Other signs of a stroke include
•    weakness on one side of the body
•    numbness of the face
•    unusual and severe headache
•    vision loss
•    numbness and tingling
•    unsteady walk.


Filed under stroke

9 responses to “7 things you can do to prevent a stroke – Harvard

  1. See, you caught me on the alcohol… you actually listed serving sizes. I was ready to hit the comments section with, “My idea of one drink is a gallon of beer…”

    You beat me to the punch line though. In all seriousness, my dad suffered some mini strokes and that was the beginning of his big decline before passing. These are all good tips. Well, except for alcohol. By the age of 22 I’d already had a lifetime’s worth. Great post Tony.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you posted this Tony. Many people assume this is an “OLD MAN’S DISEASE.” With cardiovascular disease so prevalent, strokes will continue to affect more lives in the future. Until we are willing to modify our lifestyles and provide our bodies with ALL components needed for maximizing optimal health, strokes will remain a significant problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Athena

    A new study came out of the group I work for, which showed that air pollution is a major contributing factor for stroke. Will share the Guardian article about it

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Athena

    That is in addition to all the other risk factors you mentioned


  5. Athena

    BRNZ member and Director of NISAN at AUT
    Professor Valery Feigin’s landmark and world-leading epidemiological study of the contributing risk factors for stroke has provided unexpected results. Air pollution is a major risk factor for stroke. He and his teams’s research was released in prestigious journal Lancet last week, and is now the focus of media attention all over the world. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jun/09/air-pollution-now-major-contributor-to-stroke

    Liked by 1 person

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