May is American Stroke Month and the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, wants you to know that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. One way to provide the best outcome of stroke is to know the signs and symptoms of stroke: F.A.S.T. (F: face drooping, A: arm weakness, S: speech difficulties, T: time to call 9-1-1).
The following seven healthy lifestyle tips can help prevent stroke:
Don’t smoke. If you smoke, stop; and if you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking can increase blood pressure, among many other health issues and it’s the No. 1 controllable risk factor for stroke. Cigarette smoking, vaping and tobacco products in general, are dangerous for your health. Quitting is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and add years to your life.
Manage blood pressure. Nothing causes more strokes than uncontrolled high blood pressure. Of the 116.4 million people in the United States who have high blood pressure, fewer than half have it under control, putting them at increased risk of stroke. Lowering your blood pressure by just 20 points could cut your risk of dying from a stroke by half. A good blood pressure should be less than 120/80.
Be physically active. A good starting goal is at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week, but if you don’t want to sweat the numbers, just move more. Find forms of physical activity you like and will stick with and build more opportunities to be active into your routine. With warmer weather on the way, spring is a great time to begin a new exercise routine.
Eat a healthy diet. Healthy eating starts with simple healthy food choices. You don’t need to stop eating your favorite meals, just use substitutions to make them healthier. Learn what to look for at the grocery store, restaurants, your workplace and other eating occasions, so you can confidently make healthy, delicious choices whenever and wherever you eat.
Maintain a healthy weight. The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight go beyond improved energy and smaller clothing sizes. By losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, you are also likely to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. There’s no magic trick to losing weight and keeping it off, but the majority of people who are successful modify their eating habits and increase their physical activity.
Control cholesterol. Having large amounts of LDL cholesterol in the blood, the bad cholesterol, can cause build up and blood clots, which leads to a heart attack or stroke. Reducing your fat intake, especially trans fats, more often found in fried foods and baked goods, can help reduce your cholesterol. Adding more foods with omega-3 fatty acids like fish and nuts, as well as soluble fiber and whey protein helps in managing bad cholesterol.
Control blood sugar. By managing your diabetes and working with your health care team, you may reduce your risk of stroke. Every two minutes, an adult with diabetes in the United States is hospitalized for a stroke. At age 60, someone with type 2 diabetes and a history of stroke may have a life expectancy that is 12 years shorter than someone without both conditions.
The New Hampshire Heart Walk, a walk to end heart disease and stroke, will be held June 1 at Derryfield Park in Manchester. For more information, visit NHHeartWalk.org.
For more information on how to prevent, treat and beat stroke, visit www.StrokeAssociation.org/StrokeMonth.