5 Simple Ways to Reduce Stroke Risk
Adapted from an article by Jayne Reynolds, BCHN, Abundant Life & Nutrition
Strokes are not necessarily an age-related problem; they are a health-related problem.
While there are factors that can predict your stroke risk, many Arizonans—including those in college apartments or starter housing—rarely grasp that they could be as much at risk as those in Arizona senior living. Medical professionals advise getting your lab tests done every five years until you turn 65, and then they recommend annual check-ups.
Infrequent health check-ups and tests could leave you in the dark about the stealthily advancing issues of high blood pressure, elevated blood sugars, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and obesity. Why does this matter? Because as many as 10% of people in the US who experience a stroke are younger than 45, nowhere near ready for assisted living or independent living for seniors. In fact, in 2014, 38% of the people hospitalized for a stroke were less than 65 years old. The statistics are alarming.
- Every 40 seconds, someone in the USA has a stroke.
- Every 3.5 minutes, someone dies of a stroke.
- It is the 3rd leading cause of death in America and the leading cause of adult disabilities.
One reason these statistics are so heart-wrenching is that strokes are often preventable, meaning their victims could have been enjoying life instead of coping with the after-effects.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke happens when part of the brain's blood supply is interrupted by a blood clot or a hemorrhage, preventing oxygen from getting to the brain tissue. A TIA (transient ischemic attack), also known as a mini-stroke, interrupts blood flow to the brain too. In a TIA, cholesterol-containing fatty deposits build up in an artery that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the brain, choking off the supply.
What are the Risk Factors?
Risk factors for a stroke include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disorders like coronary heart disease
- Tobacco and alcohol use
- Genetics and Family History
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Age - your risk doubles every ten years over the age of 55.
- Sex - women are more likely than men to have a stroke.
- Race or Ethnicity - Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Native Alaskans are more likely to have a stroke than non-Hispanics, Whites, or Asians.
The great news is that many of the risk factors associated with a stroke are diet and lifestyle related. This means you have a lot of control over them, and reducing your risk is possible.
Reducing Your Risk
Improve Your Ratio of Good Fats to Bad Fats
Rich in monounsaturated fats, olive oil (never heated) is a rich source of antioxidants. Those help improve good cholesterol levels while lowering LDLs and triglycerides, protecting your heart and arteries for many more years of senior health and wellness.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds can help lower triglyceride levels, improve oxygen supply, improve how your blood vessels lining functions, and may help reduce blood pressure. Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of healthy fats and fiber, reducing heart attack risk by 30%. Finally, these good fats keep your platelets from sticking so that they can't clump together and cause a clot.
Eat Your Vegetables
People who eat flavonoid-rich vegetables significantly reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke. Those high in potassium, such as sweet and white potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, prunes, avocados, and melons, can help you maintain healthy blood pressure. Magnesium-rich foods like dark leafy greens, beans, and lentils also lower your stroke risk. Vegetables are also typically full of fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels so you can enjoy every day of independent living.
Control Your Blood Sugar
Healthy dining is important because over time, high blood sugar damages your blood vessels, increasing your risk of a stroke. Adults with diabetes are 1.5 times more likely to have a stroke than those without diabetes. Eating a low-glycemic diet lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and also helps you lose weight.
Choose foods free from added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, or corn syrup solids. Stick to natural sweeteners like Stevia and Pure Monk Fruit because the Cleveland Clinic reported in 2019 that women who drank two or more diet drinks a day had a 23% higher risk of stroke than women who drank them less than once a week.
Cigarette smokers have a 70% greater risk of death from a cardiovascular event than non-smokers. Quitting is one of the best steps to protect your health. All kinds of smoking cessation programs exist, including patches, chewing gum, acupuncture, hypnosis, and support groups. Even neurotransmitter supplements like 5HTP and GABA may be helpful.
Move Your Body
Movement is so beneficial for your cardiovascular system. It lowers your resting heart rate, strengthens your heart, lowers your blood pressure, improves oxygen delivery throughout your body, and enlarges the arteries to your heart. It also improves how your body handles dietary fats, reduces heart disease risk, and lowers cholesterol.
In light of all those great benefits, it seems crazy to skip your daily walk, swim in the pool, or time spent dancing with friends. In fact, if you’ve ever told a friend or family member “I’m interested in assisted living communities near me,” the many activities at Fellowship Square might be one of the reasons to consider a visit!
Whatever you love to do, get up and go do it. Your heart will thank you for it.
While the statistics might be alarming, it's clear that there are lots of steps you can take to reduce your risk of a stroke. Even genetics aren't set in stone; our dietary and lifestyle choices can turn on and off how they express themselves. Healthy lifestyle choices can reduce your risk of a stroke by up to 80%, with diet being the major factor. Following these simple steps, we can create a world where strokes are a thing of the past!