Stroke is among the leading causes of death in the U.S., responsible for the deaths of 130,000 Americans every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although a stroke can cause lasting damage to one's health, the good news is that many of the risk factors are avoidable by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are five of the most common causes of stroke and how to avoid them.
1. High blood pressure
Many people who have high blood pressure don't know they have the condition, as it often doesn't come with any symptoms. Blood pressure levels become high when the blood in your arteries and surrounding blood vessels is too high. Going for regular checkups with your doctor is the only way to ensure you aren't impacted by high blood pressure. If you find that you are, the easiest way to lower it is eating healthier and exercising regularly. There are certain medications your doctor may also be able to provide to get your blood pressure levels back on track before conditions like heart disease and stroke affect you.
2. High cholesterol
When you have high cholesterol, your arteries are at risk of becoming blocked. This can have serious impacts on your health, often triggering stroke and other heart-related conditions. Stroke occurs when an artery that leads to the brain becomes blocked.
The American Heart Association noted that while low HDL, also referred to as good cholesterol, is a risk factor for stroke in men, scientists are still working on confirming its effect in women. As it is with many of stroke's risk factors, high cholesterol can be avoided by eating right and staying away from high amounts of foods like red meat and high-fat dairy products such as cheese.
According to the CDC, diabetes mellitus can increase your risk for stroke because it causes sugar to build up in the blood, which makes it difficult for the body to produce enough insulin. In many cases, the body isn't able to use the insulin it has made as well as it should either. It's also important to note that most people who have diabetes mellitus also have high blood pressure and cholesterol, and are often overweight, three of the leading risk factors for stroke.
4. Cigarette smoking
The National Stroke Association explained that smoking cigarettes can double your risk of having a stroke. The cardiovascular system is impacted by the nicotine and carbon monoxide found in cigarettes. Smoking often thickens the blood, which causes clot formation and an increase in the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries.
People who have been smoking their whole lives may find it very challenging to quit the habit. This is when it's best to speak to your doctor who can suggest quit-smoking aids, such as nicotine patches. See if there are any local support groups or if a family member or friend is willing to help you through the process. The National Stroke Association pointed out that how you go about quitting is crucial because, in general, people are less likely to try quitting if they fail the first time.
5. Unhealthy lifestyle
A poor diet and physical inactivity are common causes of stroke. Living a sedentary lifestyle and failing to get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week will not only drastically increase your chances of becoming overweight, but having high blood pressure and cholesterol, and diabetes.Try to go for a quick walk on a daily basis if you're having trouble getting more active. Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week can significantly improve your health.
Meals that have a lot salt will promote high blood pressure, so maintaining a diet that consists of low-sodium foods will help lower your risk of stroke. You should try to avoid foods that are high in trans and saturated fats, as these can cause blood cholesterol levels to soar. If you don't pay attention to what you're eating overall, this can lead to obesity and diabetes as well. The AHA recommended adding at least five servings of fruits and vegetables to your meals each day to reduce your chances of developing many of stroke's risk factors.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living