Some risk factors for stroke may not be controllable, such as
age, gender, family history and prior stroke or heart problems.
But you do have control to reduce these other risks:
Blood pressure: You
have a six times higher risk for stroke if your blood
pressure is consistently higher than 140/90.
Statistics prove that patients who control their
elevated blood pressure with medication drastically reduce their
risk of stroke. See more about lowering your blood pressure.
High cholesterol: A total blood serum
cholesterol level of more than 200 can increase the chances
of a blockage and double a
person’s stroke risk. Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
Smoking: Smokers have two to three times the risk of stroke
as nonsmokers. Quit now and your risk of having a stroke will
begin to drop immediately. Within five years, you will be at
the same risk level as someone who has never smoked.
Heart disease and
diabetes: While it may not be possible to
eliminate the increased risk of stroke associated with heart
disease or diabetes, proper treatment and control
can significantly reduce its occurrence.
Alcohol: Having more than two alcoholic drinks a day (one for
women) or going on drinking binges can increase your stroke risk
at any age.
Exercise: If you engage in physical activities for at least
30 minutes three times a week, you have more control over your
weight and can lower your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes
and other circulatory diseases.
Lower Your Blood Pressure
If you need to lower your blood pressure, follow these seven steps:
- Eat plenty of
potassium-rich foods and cut your saturated
fat and total fat intake.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid obesity. Just 10 extra pounds can markedly increase
the risk of hypertension.
- Limit alcohol. Have no more than one to two drinks per day.
- Consume no more
than one teaspoon of salt per day. Don’t
forget to include in this amount the sodium in processed
- If your doctor prescribes medication, stick
to the regimen.
Even if you feel fine, continue to take your medication exactly
- Don’t smoke. Tobacco speeds
up the development of arteriosclerosis, which can lead to
heart attack or stroke.
Get Treatment Early
- Millions who think they’re healthy
are actually prehypertensive and should act to prevent
full-blown high blood pressure.
- People over age 50... with a top number of 140 or more should
be treated regardless of their bottom number.
- Two (or more) drugs are better... for most people with 140/90
pressure or higher. For most, one drug should be a diuretic.
- Doctors should treat more aggressively:
one-third of people with hypertension don’t know it; two-thirds of those diagnosed don’t
have it controlled.
Dangerous Myths about High Blood Pressure
- Common signs
include nervousness, sweating, trouble sleeping. Wrong. High blood pressure has no symptoms. The only way to know
if you have it is to check it.
- Stress gives
everyone high blood pressure. It’s just a
fact of life. Stress can increase your risk so check your
blood pressure often. People with uncontrolled hypertension
much greater risk of heart disease, heart failure and stroke.
- When I visit
the doctor, my blood pressure is high. I'm
sure it’s OK at home. Some people have higher pressure
in a doctor’s office due to nervousness. Home monitoring
can help your doctor measure your true pressure. Never ignore
several high readings.
- Women needn't worry. It’s a man’s
problem. False. Some things may put women at even greater
control pills; being pregnant, overweight, postmenopausal
or African-American; family history of hypertension.
- I feel fine,
so I can stop taking my blood pressure medicine. No! Hypertension is a lifelong disease that can be controlled,
not cured. Take medicine exactly as prescribed. Cutting back
or quitting is dangerous.
- I can take any
over-the-counter cold or flu medicine. Wrong. Cold, cough and flu medicine with decongestants can be dangerous
for people with hypertension. They can increase blood pressure
and interfere with blood pressure drugs.
- I don’t need to check my blood
pressure until middle age. Wrong. Start checking it early.
Children as young as 6 can have
hypertension. Heavier, more sexually mature teens tend to
have higher pressure; those with hypertension and extra pounds
have thicker arteries by age 30.
Visit strokeassociation.org to learn
Information source: American Stroke Association.