Lower Your Stroke Risk: 12 Simple Lifestyle Changes

October 27, 2022 | Brain and Spine Specialists

Lower Your Stroke Risk: 12 Simple Lifestyle Changes

Around 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year. That’s one person every 40 seconds. Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the US, and they are also a leading cause of adult disability. So what can you do to reduce your risk of having a stroke? Here are 10 simple lifestyle changes that will help lower your odds!

You can’t do anything about your age or family history, but you can control other risk factors. Some, like smoking and high blood pressure, you may be well aware of. Others, such as sleep apnea and stress, might surprise you. But all of them are important to keep in mind when it comes to stroke prevention.

Three Different Strokes

So, what are the different types of strokes? Ischemic strokes, which account for 87 percent of all strokes, happen when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are “mini-strokes” that produce stroke-like symptoms but don’t last as long.

How to Prevent a Stroke

You can help lower your risk of all three types of strokes by following these simple lifestyle changes:

1. Quit Smoking

Smoking is one of the most important risk factors for stroke. In fact, smokers are twice as likely to have a stroke as non-smokers. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Talk to your doctor about ways to help you quit.

2. Get Active and Stay Active

Physical activity helps keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on most days of the week. Taking a brisk walk is a great way to get started.

3. Eat a Healthy Diet

Healthy eating habits can help reduce your risk of stroke as well as other conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. Limit salt, sugar, saturated and trans fats, and alcohol.

4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of stroke as well as other conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about ways to lose weight safely and slowly through changes to your diet and physical activity level.

5. Manage Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke. To keep your blood pressure in check, aim to eat a healthy diet, stay active, and limit salt intake. If you need help managing your blood pressure, talk to your doctor about medications that can help.

6. Control Your Cholesterol Levels

High cholesterol is another leading risk factor for stroke. It can be managed by eating a healthy diet, staying active, and taking medication if necessary. 

7. Manage Stress Levels

Stress can contribute to many health problems, including an increased risk of stroke. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, or talking to someone about what’s bothering you. 

8. Get Enough Sleep

Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night, but many people get less than that. Getting too little sleep can increase your risk of stroke as well as other health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

9. Take Steps to Prevent Falls

Falls are the leading cause of injury in adults aged 65 years and older, but they can happen at any age. Falls can cause broken bones or head injuries that may lead to a stroke. To help prevent falls, wear proper footwear, remove tripping hazards from your home, use assistive devices when necessary, and exercise regularly to improve strength and balance.

10. Treat Sleep Apnea if You Have It

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that increases the risk of stroke. If you snore loudly, wake up gasping for air, or feel tired during the day, you may be at risk. If you think you might have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about getting tested.

11. Control Chronic Conditions Such as Diabetes

These conditions increase your risk for stroke and other health problems, such as heart disease. Work with your healthcare team to develop a plan to manage these conditions through lifestyle changes and/or medication if needed.

12. Limit Alcohol Intake

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation—up to one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men—to help reduce your risk of stroke as well as other health problems such as liver damage or cancer.

Small Changes. Big Impact

Making even small changes in lifestyle choices can dramatically decrease the chances of having a stroke. Controlling chronic diseases, losing weight, eating healthier foods, getting regular exercise, sleeping the recommended hours per night, not smoking, knowing family history of related diseases, drinking only in moderation if at all, managing stress levels, and taking measures to prevent falls are all lifestyle choices that will help reduce the risks associated with having a stroke. Consult with medical professionals before making any major changes in your lifestyle. 

If you or a loved one have already had a stroke, contact the professionals at Brain and Spine Specialists for the best stroke treatment in Northwest Florida. Contact us today for a stroke consultation!