The key to stroke prevention is making healthy choices every day. Take care of your body, eat healthy foods and manage existing medical conditions.
National Stroke Association Prevention Guidelines include:
- Control your blood pressure. Work with your doctor to keep your blood pressure at healthy levels. High blood pressure may cause as many as half of all strokes. A blood pressure reading of 120/80 is optimal.
- If your blood pressure numbers start to creep up, take action to lower it; exercise daily, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, and maintain a healthy weight
- If your doctor prescribes medication to lower your blood pressure, follow the doctor's orders carefully. Do not skip medicines.
- If you notice irregular heartbeats, tell your doctor. As we age, irregular heartbeats are more common. Atrial fibrillation is one type of irregular heartbeat that causes about 10 percent of all strokes. These strokes can be prevented with medication or other treatments for irregular heartbeats.
- If you smoke - stop! Smoking doubles your risk of stroke.
- If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to keep it under good control
- Get moving! Get some form of exercise every day for a total of 30 minutes or more. Make regular choices such as parking the car a little farther away at the shopping center, join a mall walking group, use the stairs, garden, find an exercise or movement class at your local athletic center, YMCA or community center.
- If you drink alcohol, limit your use. Remember that alcohol is a drug and may interfere with medications. Alcohol is harmful in large doses.
- Know your cholesterol number. If it is high, work with your doctor to control it. Lowering your cholesterol may reduce your risk for stroke. High cholesterol can also indirectly increase stroke risk by putting you at greater risk of heart disease - an important stroke risk factor. Often times, high cholesterol can be controlled with diet and exercise; some individuals may require medication.
- Enjoy a lower sodium (salt), lower fat diet. By cutting down on sodium and fat in your diet, you may be able to lower your blood pressure, and, most importantly, lower your risk for stroke.
- Ask your doctor if you have circulation problems. If so, work with your doctor to control them. Fatty deposits can block the arteries which carry blood from your heart to your brain. This kind of blockage can cause stroke. Sickle cell disease, severe anemia, or other diseases can cause stroke if left untreated.
Learn stroke warning signs and ACT FAST at the First Sign of Stroke. Call 911! Stroke is an emergency!
Common stroke symptoms include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.