Stroke is a leading cause of death in the US, killing almost 130,000 Americans every year. As many as 80 percent of these strokes could be prevented by making some important lifestyle changes.
The following are some things you can do to decrease your risk of having a stroke, which can cause early death or negatively impact the quality of your life:
Research has found that cigarette smokers that give up the habit can cut their risk of stroke by 50 percent. Try to avoid secondhand smoke as well – those who are exposed are said to have an 82 percent greater risk of suffering from a stroke.
Practice stress-reduction techniques
When you’re overstressed or feeling anxious, it can cause an overproduction of dopamine, which helps to regulate the brain’s control of circulation. Therefore, it’s important to practice deep breathing, or just take a walk, when you feel anxiety coming on. Regular meditation can also help keep stress and anxiety in check.
Watch your blood pressure
High blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for having a stroke. Be sure to keep an eye on yours, and take action to lower it if necessary. Home blood pressure monitoring devices are an inexpensive investment that could save your life. You can also get your blood pressure taken at most local pharmacies.
Get regular exercise
Regular physical activity can significantly reduce your stroke risk. Ideally, you should strive to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Alternately, you can do 75 minutes of vigorously intense exercise each week, with each session at least 10 minutes in duration. Regular resistance training can also help to lower blood pressure, and can decrease the ‘stickiness’ of the blood, to lessen stroke risk further.
Drink lots of water
A study performed at Loma Linda University found that drinking at least five 8-ounce glasses of water each day can cut the risk of stroke by 53 percent. According to the study’s lead author, keeping yourself properly hydrated helps to thin the blood, making it less likely to form clots.
Get your Zzz’s, but not too much
Studies have found that those who get less than seven hours of sleep each night have a higher risk of developing heart disease. A lack of sleep can cause blood pressure to rise, increase stress hormones and cause other health issues. On the other end of the spectrum, sleeping more than ten hours each night can actually increase stroke risk.
Spend a little time in the sun
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient obtained from exposure to sunlight. Caucasians who have low levels of this vitamin double their risk of stroke, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Heart and Vascular Institute. They recommend brief daily exposure to the sun’s vitamin D-producing ultraviolet light; as little as 10 to 15 minutes per day is enough during summer months. For the winter months, when the sun is not so bright, take a high quality supplement or oral spray form of the vitamin.
Eat a nutritious diet
A nutritious diet that is based on as many whole, fresh foods from the earth as possible can dramatically reduce the risk of all types of illness and disease, including stroke. Eating foods that are rich in potassium, such as sweet potatoes, raisins and bananas, is believed to reduce stroke risk by 20 percent.
The thought of having a stroke may be scary, but by embarking on a path to a healthier lifestyle, you’ll increase your chance of preventing it, as well as many other life-threatening health conditions.