Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, with someone dying of stroke every 4 minutes. It is the leading cause of serious long-term disability and overall, the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. But, did you know that many of the leading causes of stroke are preventable?
Here are six treatable risk factors of stroke that you can control by making healthy choices and managing existing health conditions:
Smoking cigarettes doubles your risk of ischemic stroke and increases your risk of hemorrhagic stroke by four times. Those who smoke are also at increased risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer. Of course, the best thing you can do is to not start smoking in the first place. But, if you already have, it’s never too late to quit. If you are unable to quit smoking on your own, talk to your healthcare provider about quit-smoking aids such as nicotine patches, medications, counseling and other programs that may be available to you.
2. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading risk factor for stroke. In the United States, an estimated 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure with only slightly half having the condition under control. It is important to check your blood pressure regularly and understand your numbers and risk factors because there are often no warning signs or symptoms. In many cases, high blood pressure can be prevented and managed with simple lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise.
3. Heart Disease
The term heart and blood vessel disease, or simply heart disease, can be misleading does not refer to a single condition. Instead, it is an umbrella term used to describe several types of conditions that affect the heart including coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, heart infections and congenital heart defects.
Many of these conditions are related to a process called atherosclerosis which develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries within the heart. This buildup of plaque causes the arteries to narrow and restricts the ability for blood to flow through. If the buildup forms a clot that blocks the blood flow entirely, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. As with high blood pressure, you can help lower your risk of heart disease by eating a balanced diet and participating in regular physical activity. Not smoking, managing your weight and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption can also help.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in terms of stroke and cardiovascular disease, having diabetes is the equivalent of aging 15 years. Not only does diabetes affect the body’s ability to process sugar, but also destructive changes to the blood vessel throughout your body, including the brain. While in some cases, diabetes is caused by uncontrollable genetic factors, often times it can be prevented and managed by implementing healthy lifestyle habits.
5. Cholesterol Imbalance
There are two types of cholesterol–low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol” an excess of LDL can cause cholesterol to build up in the blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis, or cardiovascular disease. As previously mentioned, this narrowing of the blood vessels is also a leading cause of stroke. Ways to improve the balance of your cholesterol levels include reducing consumption of saturated and trans fats and increasing your intake of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
6. Physical Inactivity and Obesity
Sedentary lifestyles and obesity have grown to become a widespread health concern, as they have been proven to be associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. The World Health Organization reports that obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. For adults, overweight is defined as a body mass index greater than or equal to 25, and obesity as a BMI greater than or equal to 30. Due to inflammation caused by excess fatty tissue, obesity can increase the risk of stroke due to inflammation caused by excess fatty tissue.
When a Stroke Occurs
While it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce the risk of stroke, it is equally important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke, as well as how to respond. If think you or someone you loved has suffered a stroke, call 911 immediately.
If the occurrence of a stroke is confirmed, the physicians at Regional Neurological Associates can help guide you through the process of stroke recovery, including identifying risk factors to help reduce the risk of recurrence. To schedule an appointment, call (718) 515-4347.