No one plans to have a stroke, but it’s becoming more common and we need to do something about it. There are many ways you can live a better lifestyle to prevent getting a stroke naturally. Strokes can range from mild to serious and in the worst cases they can be fatal. Therefore, it’s vital we take better care of ourselves to try and prevent premature death from something that we may have been able to avoid.
According to the World Stroke Organisation which is trying to raise awareness of the prevention of stroke, as well as treatment, rehabilitation and support “Stroke has already reached epidemic proportions. Globally 1 in 4 adults over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime. 13.7 million people worldwide will have their first stroke this year and five and a half million will die as a result. Current trends suggest that the number of annual deaths will climb to 6.7 million annually without appropriate action.” (world-stroke.org/world-stroke-day-campaign/why-stroke-matters/learn-about-stroke)
As the CDC report, “Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of serious disability for adults. About 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year.” They go on to say that a person in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. The statistics are just as shocking in the UK too with strokes affecting 100,000 people per year; that’s one person suffering a stroke every five minutes. It really has become an epidemic, so we are right to question whether we can lead healthier lives to prevent our chances of suffering a stroke.
If you’re wondering how to prevent a stroke before it happens, then read on for some healthy living tips you can implement in your own life and hopefully avoid a stroke.
Firstly, what is a stroke?
A stroke is a medical emergency, and it can happen to anyone at any time. A stroke is an interruption to the blood supply to the brain causing a part of the brain to stop getting blood and oxygen. Without oxygen from the blood, the brain cells in this area will die.
The three most common types of stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident, are:
- Ischemic – due to a clot that blocks blood flow to an artery supplying the brain;
- Haemorrhagic – due to a burst blood vessel or weakened artery in the brain; and
- Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) – caused by very short interruption of blood flow caused by clots or narrowed vessels.
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
A stroke has many symptoms including sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg; sudden confusion; trouble talking; trouble understanding speech; vision changes like blurred vision, double vision, or seeing flashing lights; and sudden severe headache.
If you, or someone you know, could be suffering a stroke then you need to call the emergency services and request an ambulance immediately.
What are the dangers of a stroke?
The severity of a stroke can vary from a mild stroke with no lasting effects, to brain damage, disability and even death.
The dangers of a stroke and stroke victim life expectancy can vary between individuals. There is no set number of years for stroke victims. Strokes cause different types of damage to the brain, depending on where it occurs and how severe it is. The length of quality life after a stroke varies widely depending on whether or not you are able to move or take care of yourself; how much mental function is affected; and the severity, location, and type of stroke.
Sadly a person dies every four minutes in the US from a stroke. This is why it’s so important we lead a healthy lifestyle as the best prevention for a stroke as it could mean the difference between life and death.
According to John Hopkins Medicine some of the effects of a stroke can include issues with breathing and heart functions; body temperature control; balance and coordination; weakness or paralysis; chewing, swallowing and speaking; vision and even coma.
How to prevent a stroke naturally
Whilst anyone can suffer a stroke at any time, there are certain lifestyle risk factors that increase the likelihood of having a stroke. Therefore, there are many healthy lifestyle choices that you can make to avoid things that are bad for your brain and body to prevent your chances of suffering a stroke. Let’s take a look:
Eat a healthy diet
Your diet can play a major role in stroke prevention. Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis (fatty deposits clogging arteries).
The risk of all three can be reduced by following a healthy plant based diet low in salt, unhealthy fats, alcohol, processed foods and junk foods. Instead, eat a diet full of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
You may already be aware that red meat such as lamb, beef and pork has been classed as a carcinogen meaning it can increase your chance of cancer, but red meat can also significantly increase your risk of stroke.
Those with diabetes are also more likely to suffer from a stroke, so it’s vital you control your blood sugar. According to WebMD “High blood sugar can make you 2-4 times more likely to have a stroke. If it’s not managed well, diabetes can lead to fatty deposits or clots inside your blood vessels. This can narrow the ones in your brain and neck and might cut off the blood supply to the brain.”
Maintain a healthy weight
People who are overweight or obese are at much greater risk of developing stroke than those who have a healthy weight. This is because obesity is linked to other risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Being overweight can double your chance of having a stroke: “Being overweight also leads to metabolic syndrome—characterized by high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high blood sugar. Over time, these conditions harm the blood vessels of the brain and the heart and increase the risk that a blood clot will form and travel to the brain—resulting in stroke.” – VeryWellHealth
Most strokes happen because of a blood clot. The clot can occur on a narrow artery in the brain, from a heart attack, or from some other cause. Staying hydrated and drinking water each day helps to prevent stroke by ensuring that your blood is thin enough for the passage of the blood clot.
Accoring to Medicine Net staying hydrated with water each day can help to prevent a stroke. It can also prevent the severity of effects caused by a stroke: “Drinking more water may help prevent a stroke. Many studies have proven that proper hydration at the time of a stroke is linked to better stroke recovery. It is possible that dehydration causes blood to be thicker. Viscous blood causes the body to retain sodium and increases blood pressure.”
When you smoke, you inhale toxic chemicals like carbon monoxide and tar into your lungs. These substances reduce the oxygen supply to your blood, heart and brain. The nicotine and chemicals also increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease or atherosclerosis which are all connected to having a stroke. Smoking reduces the number of platelets that help blood clot, which increases the risk for a stroke.
Smoking is one of the most preventable causes of death and disease. Many articles cite the risk of stroke is doubled for those who smoke tobacco. There are many reasons why smoking is bad for you and increasing your chance of suffering a stroke is another reason, amongst a long list, for why you should quit smoking or never start.
Don’t drink alcohol
Some people drink alcohol and get drunk to socialise, but did you know that drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to a stroke?
Drinking too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure and constricts the blood vessels and neurons in your brain. This increases your chance of having a stroke.
Binge drinking can cause an irregular heart beat which is another risk factor for stroke.
There are so many benefits to exercise for our body and mind, including reducing our risk of suffering a stroke. Regular exercise can help increase the level of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).
Exercise can reduce our blood pressure, as well as ensure we maintain a healthy weight. It also improves insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes and improves blood circulation by increasing blood flow to the heart.
All these things combined will reduce our chance of stroke as they are all risk factors as mentioned above.
Grow old healthily to reduce your risk of stroke
Whilst you might be concerned about when should seniors stop driving? and whether your life will be limited by simple pleasures being removed such as driving or mobility, you should also be aware that your chance of stroke increases as you age.
We should not wait until we are old to take care of our health. Healthy habits practiced in the young and middle-aged years can reduce the risk of stroke. Whilst you can’t help aging, you can ensure you follow healthy lifestyle habits as explained above to prevent increasing stroke risk factors anymore.
“Aging is the most robust non-modifiable risk factor for incident stroke, which doubles every 10 years after age 55 years.” – source
Every year, many strokes could be prevented by following healthy lifestyle habits such as exercising regularly, eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking cigarettes and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.
By following a healthy lifestyle we can all reduce our risk of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. These three problems are risk factors for a stroke that everyone can address.
Even if you have already suffered a stroke, making healthier lifestyle choices going forwards can help to prevent you suffering another stroke in the future.