Up to 80 percent of all Strokes are preventable. Talk to your doctor and discuss your controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for Stroke to determine the best way to prevent it from happening.
Reduce Your Risk
The prevailing motto among health professionals is: “The best way to treat a Stroke is to prevent one from happening in the first place.” It is important to be aware of Stroke risk factors and some ways to reduce your risk.
- Stop Smoking (if you smoke): Smoking doubles your risk of Stroke.
- Have your blood pressure checked regularly and manage high blood pressure: High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for Stroke. An optimal blood pressure reading for people over age 18 is 120/80 or lower.
- Have your cholesterol levels checked regularly and manage high cholesterol: Cholesterol or plaque build-up in the arteries can block normal blood flow to the brain and cause a Stroke. Eating a healthy diet, losing weight, exercise and medication can help control cholesterol.
- If you have diabetes, keep it under control: People who have diabetes are up to four times more likely to have a Stroke. Managing diabetes — either through closely monitoring blood sugar and daily shots of insulin for Type 1 diabetes or weight loss, exercise and changing eating habits for Type II — can reduce the risk.
- Ask your doctor if you have circulation problems (movement of the blood through the heart). Poor circulation can increase your risk for Stroke.
- Find out if you have atrial fibrillation (AF) and manage it if you do: AF is a type of irregular heartbeat caused when the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat rapidly and unpredictably. AF raises Stroke risk because it allows blood to pool in the heart. A person with AF is five times more likely to have a Stroke. Medications or the use of electrical stimulation can often restore the normal, regular rhythm of the heart.
- Eat a healthy diet: Maintaining a diet low in calories, salt, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol helps manage obesity, cholesterol levels in the blood and blood pressure, and helps reduce the risk for Stroke.
- Increase physical activity: Physical activity can reduce Stroke risk. Research has shown that people who exercise five or more times per week have a reduced Stroke risk.
- Control alcohol use: There is conflicting research about alcohol use and its effects on Stroke risk, so talk to your doctor before consuming alcoholic drinks on a regular basis.
- Know the symptoms of Stroke. Knowing the symptoms and calling for emergency help right away means you will get treatment for Stroke faster, which can reduce the effects of the brain attack.
What Is Carotid Endarterectomy?
The carotid arteries are the two main arteries in the neck supplying blood to the brain. As people age or do not maintain a healthy lifestyle, fatty deposits or plaque can build up on artery walls and block the blood flow. Almost 90 percent of Strokes are caused by a blood clot or blockage of a blood vessel. A carotid endarterectomy is a surgical procedure in which a doctor removes fatty deposits from the carotid arteries. It is the most common surgery for removing fatty deposits in the United States and can reduce the risk for Stroke by as much as 55 percent.
Prevent Recurrent Stroke
If you have already had a Stroke, the most important step for preventing another one is to follow your doctor’s advice. Don’t stop taking medicine unless a doctor advises it, and discuss the risk factors listed above with your doctor to determine your personal risk levels. Then, learn how to control and manage those risk factors.
Within five years of a first Stroke, the risk for another Stroke can increase more than 40 percent, and recurrent Strokes often have a higher rate of death and disability because parts of the brain already injured by the original Stroke may not be as resilient.
No one has to have another Stroke. Again, the best way to treat a Stroke is to prevent one in the first place.