Prevention is better than cure!
There are many factors that can increase your chance of having a stroke. Stroke is preventable by lowering your risk factors. Some factors, like age, gender and a family history of stroke, cannot be controlled. But there are other factors that you can control. Here are some ways you can reduce your risk of stroke:
1. Lower your high blood pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) is the most important treatable risk factor for stroke. Uncontrolled hypertension increases your risk of stroke by four times. Know your blood pressure and have it checked at least once every two years, more often if you have risk factors for stroke. It should be lower than 140/90 mmHg; if you are diabetic, it should be lower than 130/80 mmHg. Medication as well as a healthy lifestyle and diet with less salt and alcohol intake are some measures that can reduce blood pressure.
2. Lower your cholesterol levels
High cholesterol can cause the blood vessels in your body to narrow, leading to blockage of the blood flow to your vital organs including the brain, thus increasing the risk of stroke. Reducing intake of foods high in cholesterol and saturated fats, such as coconut milk, deep fried foods and seafood, as well as medication can control your cholesterol levels.
3. Treat your diabetes
Diabetes causes high blood sugar levels in the body. Uncontrolled diabetes over a long period of time can cause damage to your blood vessels and nerves. The risk of stroke is 1.5 times more in diabetics. Good control of blood sugar in diabetics reduces the risk of stroke. A healthy diet, taking medication as prescribed by your doctors and regular monitoring are crucial in controlling blood sugar levels.
4. Take you medication
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, it is important to take your medication as instructed by your doctor, even if you feel fine. High blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol can be effectively controlled with medication. Not taking the prescribed medication will increase your risk of stroke.
5. Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity lowers your risk of stroke and keeps you fit and healthy. Exercise at least 3 to 5 times a week, and between 30 to 60 minutes each time. Find an exercise regime that suits your lifestyle and personality. Regular exercise helps to reduce obesity and also aids in the prevention and management of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
6. Quit Smoking
Smoking increases by 1.5 to 2.5 times, your risk of stroke. This risk is significantly reduced as soon as you stop smoking, and will be equivalent to that of a non-smoker within five years of stopping. So stop smoking today. Consult your doctor who can help you to stop smoking.
7. Treat atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a condition that causes irregular heartbeat. This makes it easier for clots to form in the heart, which increases the risk of stroke when the clots travel to the brain. If you have atrial fibrillation, get it treated to reduce your risk of stroke.
Find out more about atrial fibrillation here.