According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year. What's more, 140,000 of those Americans - nearly 20 percent - die as a result of their strokes, and many stroke survivors develop long-term disabilities that cause problems with speech, movement, and their ability to think.
Although strokes are serious and can be life-threatening, there are a few lifestyle factors, or personal behaviors, that you can control to help lower your stroke risk.
Here are four steps you can take to lower your stroke risk:
Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats – which are full of nutrients and low in sodium, calories, cholesterol, and trans and saturated fats – are the best foods to eat to help you prevent chronic conditions and lower your stroke risk. You should avoid heavily processed and fast foods, such as potato chips and candy, as these foods have few nutrients.
Thirty minutes of physical activity almost every day can reduce your risk of stroke. If you can't find the time, break up physical activity to 5-7 minute sessions. Choosing to use the stairs, going for a walk, or joining a gym are easy ways to include exercise in your daily routine. Regular exercise also will help you maintain a healthy weight, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Some chronic conditions – such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heartbeat that can cause blood clots) – can significantly increase your stroke risk, especially if they are not properly managed. Be proactive and follow your doctor's advice about managing chronic conditions: make sure to take your medication as prescribed, go to all your appointments, and follow your doctor's lifestyle recommendations.
Drinking alcohol in moderation may lower your risk of stroke, but more than one alcoholic beverage per day can significantly increase that risk. Standard sizes for alcoholic beverages are 1.5-ounce glass of hard liquor, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 12-ounce beer. If you smoke, work on giving it up. Smoking causes plaque to build up in your arteries and makes clots more likely to form.
By controlling these lifestyle factors, you can play a big part in lowering your stroke risk. And the sooner you start making healthy lifestyle choices, the sooner you can lower your stroke risk – so start today!
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