Stroke is the number five killer and a leading cause of disability in America.
“Certain uncontrollable circumstances such as age, family history and gender may play a role in stroke risk, but there are several risk factors that are within your control,” said Dr. David Teeple, medical director of Tucson Medical Center’s stroke program. “Regular checkups with your primary care provider can help you identify those risks and control and treat them.”
Here are five conditions you can manage so you can worry less about stroke.
If you have Type 1 or 2 diabetes, controlling your blood sugar can help ward off stroke. Diabetes is a risk factor for stroke all on its own, however, many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight, increasing that risk even more. If you need help controlling your diabetes, your primary care provider can help you or refer you to an endocrinologist. If you need a primary care provider, you can find one here.
Eat those fruits and veggies. Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Diets high in sodium can cause high blood pressure and those with high calories can lead to obesity. All of these can lead to stroke. However, a diet that includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day may reduce the risk of stroke.
Obesity is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. Even losing a little bit of weight – 5-10 pounds – can significantly change those risks. Losing weight and maintaining weight loss can be a real struggle, but taking small steps at a time can make a difference. For example, swap out your afternoon candy bar for an apple and some peanut butter or instead of a burger at lunch, have a salad with chicken.
If you are a smoker, you have a higher risk of stroke because the nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke cause damage to the cardiovascular system. If you are smoking AND taking birth control pills, that risk is even greater. Here are some tips to help you quit smoking.
High blood pressure
This is the leading cause of stroke and the most significant controllable risk factor. Your primary care provider can help you get on a plan to lower your blood pressure. You can also buy a device to check your blood pressure at home. Knowing your numbers and keeping them low can help prevent stroke.
Here’s an article on ways to lower your blood pressure without medication.