Stroke Prevention – a quick guide
The National Stroke Association’s Stroke Prevention Advisory Board established the first set of guidelines for stroke prevention in 1999. These guidelines are updated on a continual basis, so whether you are someone who has already had a stroke or are someone who is just looking for information about preventing a first stroke, these guidelines can help reduce your personal risk. Always remember to discuss these issues with your physician and get regular check-ups.
Controllable risk factors: e.g. High blood pressure, A-fib, cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, alcohol, obesity. These factors can all be managed by the individual through diet, exercise and other means.
Uncontrollable risk factors: e.g. Family history, ethnicity, gender, Fibromuscular Dysplagia. These factors are inherent within an individual and cannot be modified through behavior changes.
Blood pressure: High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for stroke. Get your blood pressure tested regularly at your doctor’s office. Pharmacies, health fairs and some supermarkets often offer free screenings as well. For adults over 18 yrs, a blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 is ideal. “High” blood pressure is a reading of 140/90 or higher. Remember that blood pressure can also be affected by exercise or stress.
A-fib (atrial fibrillation): This is an abnormal heart rate that can increase stroke risk by 500%. A doctor must diagnose and treat this condition.
Smoking: Smoking doubles the risk of stroke by damaging blood vessels, raising blood pressure and making the heart work harder.
Alcohol: Doctors recommend not drinking, or drinking in moderation (no more than 2 drinks per day).
Diet/exercise: Excess weight can strain the circulatory system. It is important to eat a diet low in calories, salt, saturated and trans fats. Try and exercise at least 5 times a week.
TIA (transient ischemic attack): This is a temporary episode of stroke-like symptoms that usually causes no permanent damage. However up to 40% of people who have a TIA may have a stroke, so it is important to recognize and treat the symptoms.
Stefanie Conaway MS, OTR/L Clinical Support Specialist