Stroke Prevention: Lowering Your Risk of Suffering a Stroke
You’ve probably heard the old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’.
The idea here is that it’s easier to prevent something from happening than it is to deal with it after it has occurred.
Stroke is no exception. Whilst there’s no sure-fire way of completely eliminating the risk of suffering a stroke, you can dramatically reduce your risk of stroke by making a few simple lifestyle choices.
Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to help prevent a stroke.
As mentioned in our previous post on foods which help prevent stroke, NHS guidelines state that individuals should partake in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
And there’s very good reason for this – regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke in individuals by up to 80%.
How exactly does exercise aid stroke prevention?
In a nutshell, one of the causes of stroke is when a blood clot temporarily cuts off the supply of blood to the brain. Blood clots can occur when too much fat and cholesterol build up in the arteries that supply the brain.
Along with a healthy diet and a few lifestyle changes, regular exercise can help reduce the build-up of fat and cholesterol in your arteries and lower your blood pressure, all of which reduce your risk of having a stroke.
What exercise is most appropriate?
It very much depends on your level of fitness, but the following aerobic activities are deemed the most effective.
Aerobic exercises for individuals with a low level of fitness include:
– Tai Chi
Aerobic exercises for individuals with a moderate level of fitness include:
Strengthening exercises are also important (i.e. activities that help strengthen your muscles).
Weightlifting is a great example of how to strengthen your muscles. Swimming is another, with the added benefit of providing a full aerobic workout at the same time.
Next to exercise, carefully controlling your diet is arguably the best method of stroke prevention.
A healthy diet consists of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (a minimum of 5 a day), fresh fish (such as mackerel, herring and salmon) and whole grain foods (brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa).
Nuts, green tea, citrus fruits and moderate amounts of chocolate can all play a part, too.
You can read more about the healthy foods that help reduce stroke here. For now, it’s important to highlight the foods you should ideally avoid and eliminate from your diet.
Processed Foods –
Processed foods, such as cakes, frozen pizza and French fries, are high in salt, cholesterol and trans fats, all of which can clog your arteries and raise your blood pressure.
Completely eliminating processed foods from your diet can be difficult, especially if you’re prone to eating fast food on a regular basis.
Instead of completely cutting processed foods out of your diet, try to plan your meals in advance, being sure to incorporate the healthy foods listed above, and treat yourself every once in a while, as a reward for sticking to your diet goals.
Red Meat –
Where stroke prevention is concerned, red meat is controversial, to say the least.
Despite reports linking red meat consumption to certain cancers, heart disease and a number of different ailments, there’s no denying that a moderate consumption of red meat is good for you.
High in protein and a large number of important nutrients, including iron and vitamin B-12, red meat is a staple component of the UK diet.
However, red meat has been linked to an increased risk of stroke, with the risk increasing the more you eat it – the studies commissioned found a link between red meat consumption and the development of blood clots in the blood vessels that carry blood to the brain.
Does this mean I have to stop eating red meat?
No, not at all. Just be sure to reduce your weekly intake of red meat if you eat a lot of it. For instance, if you tend to eat red meat 3 days a week, opt for fish or a lean white meat, such as turkey or chicken, on 1 or 2 of those days.
Cigarettes and Alcohol
Changes to your overall lifestyle can reduce your chances of suffering a stroke. This is especially true if you smoke or drink alcohol often.
If you smoke, try your best to give up. We appreciate this is easier said than done, however there are a number of free online resources available to help people quit smoking for good, such as SMOKE FREE, an NHS initiative that provides smokers with a personal quit plan.
Many people are able to enjoy alcohol as part of a healthy lifestyle. However, drinking too much alcohol raises your blood pressure, the most important risk factor for stroke.
If you drink often, do your best to reduce your alcohol intake or stop drinking altogether. If you need some help and guidance, Drinkaware provide a range of practical tips and advice to help you drink less or remove alcohol from your life altogether.
Help support A Stroke of Luck by making a donation today. All proceeds will go towards providing stroke survivors with access to fitness professionals services to aid in recovery and rehabilitation.