Strokes affect hundreds of thousands of Americans yearly. These cerebrovascular accidents can have lifelong consequences and cause permanent disability.
While rapid intervention can halt severe brain damage, relatively few access services in time. Therefore, it’s vital to do what you can to decrease your risk. Here are eight tips for how to prevent a stroke that you should follow.
1. Prevent Diabetes
According to the National Institutes of Health, diabetes is a well-established risk factor for stroke. It causes pathologic changes in your blood vessels that could lead to clogging or bursting. Unfortunately, over 100 million Americans currently have diabetes or a prediabetic condition.
Improve your diet by eliminating foods high in refined flours and sugars. Manufacturers remove the nutrient-rich bran from white flour, leaving you with a calorie-dense yet vitamin-poor glue. When you eat such products, your body nearly instantly converts them to sugar, causing a spike in your blood glucose levels that your pancreas must produce insulin to counteract.
The same phenomenon occurs when you eat tons of simple sugar. Over time, your body grows resistant to the effects of insulin, and your pancreas can’t keep up with the demand.
Instead, focus on eating whole foods in as close to their natural state as possible. Consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins while moderating your grain intake. When you do enjoy bread or crackers, select those made from ancient whole grains such as quinoa.
2. Increase Your B-Vitamin Intake
Have you eaten your dark, leafy greens today? Increasing intake of these foods, along with nuts, seeds and legumes, ups your B-vitamin consumption, which is critical for preventing strokes.
Research by the National Institutes of Health shows that supplementation with vitamins B-12, B-9 and B-6 reduced overall stroke risk by 10%, compared to a placebo. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you could struggle to get adequate levels of B-12. Oral supplements help, but if you also have absorption issues, talk to your doctor about injectable treatments.
3. Shed Excess Pounds
When it comes to how to prevent stroke, everyone’s favorite advice to shed excess pounds applies. Carrying too much weight can strain your arteries and veins, increasing stroke risk. Excess fatty tissue increases inflammation levels, which can precipitate a cerebrovascular event.
To lose unwanted pounds, you need to expend more energy than you consume, which sounds easier than it is. Remember, slow and steady wins the race for lasting weight loss. Try to exercise 30 minutes each day and reduce your overall consumption by around 500 calories to lose a pound per week.
4. Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol ups your stroke risk in several ways. Excess and continued consumption raise your blood pressure, which exerts more stress on veins and arteries. Additionally, liver damage can keep this organ from producing vital clotting factors, the lack of which increase your risk of brain bleeding.
Drinking also increases your risk of atrial fibrillation, where your heartbeat becomes irregular. Those with this condition have a five times greater risk of having a stroke.
5. Kick the Butts
We hate to put a damper on your vices, but you’re better off without cigarettes, too. Smoking raises the level of triglycerides in your blood — a type of fat that can clog your vessels. It also makes your blood more sticky and prone to clotting, which can impede flow.
Additionally, smoking causes plaque to accumulate inside your veins and arteries. It also makes your vessels thicker and less pliable, making you an ideal candidate for either a heart attack or a stroke.
6. Keep Your Body Moving
Exercise decreases your stroke risk through several mechanisms. The most apparent one is by improving the performance of your veins and arteries. Although working out causes your heart to pump harder, it also signals your body to relax afterward, substantially lowering your resting blood pressure.
Furthermore, exercise helps you to beat stress. Excess tension can increase levels of inflammation anywhere in your body. If it happens in your brain, your stroke risk elevates. Working out prompts you to release feel-good endorphins, natural opioid-like substances that produce a mildly euphoric state and counteract the impact of stress hormones.
7. Lower Your Stress Levels
As stated above, stress can increase inflammation, which bumps up your stroke risk. Getting this condition under control can reduce the chances of a cerebrovascular event and may minimize pain associated with chronic conditions. Folks with Crohn’s or rheumatoid arthritis often know that tense times bring on a flare.
You can decrease stress by practicing yoga or meditation. Mindfulness is a fabulous tool for stopping racing thoughts of an uncertain future and grounding you in the present. You can practice it anytime and anywhere by drawing your awareness to your breath and focusing on sensory input.
8. Spend More Time With Loved Ones
If you want to learn how to prevent a stroke, you should expand your social network, at least according to research by the National Institutes of Health. According to one study of 13,686 men and women, those with a small social network had an increased incidence of the condition.
You can expand your social network by building existing connections — phone that old college roommate whom you haven’t seen in forever. You can also meet people by signing up for recreational sports leagues or volunteering.
Learn How to Prevent a Stroke With These Tips
If you want to learn how to prevent a stroke, start with the eight tips above. Embracing them could significantly improve your quality of life.