Neurological Conditions

How can you minimize your stroke risk?
Answered by Kim Williamson and Discovery Fit & Health
  • Kim Williamson

    Kim Williamson

  • Discovery Fit & Health

    Discovery Fit & Health

  1. There are a few basic guidelines to minimizing stroke risk -- follow a healthy diet and exercise program, maintain reasonable blood pressure and cholesterol levels and do not smoke. Getting regular exercise and not smoking are pretty straight forward rules. So let's focus on how to figure out a healthy diet to follow, which can help in managing blood pressure and cholesterol.

    For good cardiovascular health, which plays a large part in reducing stroke risk, some food choices can help more than others. Lean meats, fish, nuts and beans are key ingredients to a good diet as they are high in protein, low in saturated fat and trans fat. But, did you know that beans can reduce your risk of stroke by 20 percent? Researchers at Tulane University discovered that people who ate at least one cup of beans a day lowered their risk of stroke, thanks to the 300 micrograms of folate in the beans [source: Reader's Digest]. Beans are also a fiber-high food, and fiber is what moves cholesterol out of your body; low cholesterol is a key to reducing stroke risk. If you're not a bean fan but want to take advantage of the benefits of folate, try adding a few ounces of hazelnuts to your daily diet.

    In 2002, The Journal of the American Medical Association said that eating fish once a week could reduce heart disease, but did you know that salmon is now considered one of the "super foods?" Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids. This is important because low levels of omega-3s can cause inflammation, leading to strokes. Salmon also lowers cholesterol and reduces the chance of blood clotting.

    Switching to another food group, fruits and vegetables are also important in minimizing stroke. You might already know that broccoli is considered a cancer-prevention food. But did you know that its combination of high fiber and folic acid also aids in stroke prevention? Another great green veggie is the avocado, which is high in oleic acid (the acid in olive oil) and can lower cholesterol levels. A recent study in France showed that consuming large amounts of olive oil may also help reduce stroke in older adults [source: Phend]. If you're choosing fruits, citrus fruits, like oranges, reduce stroke risk thanks to the vitamin C they contain. Highly colored fruits, like blueberries, are great because of their anti-oxidant levels, and prunes have even more anti-oxidants than berries. Anti-oxidants are key in stroke prevention because they help reduce the body's inflammatory response. Speaking of bright colors, cherries have a plant chemical in them that lower levels of uric acid; high amounts of uric acid are often a sign of stroke risk [source: McCord].  

    A little knowledge and an effort to include these already-recognized healthy foods will go a long way toward minimizing the risk of stroke.

    brain with blood clot
    (Scott Bodell/Science Faction/Getty Images)

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  2. Many people have strokes; often the strokes could have been prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and watching for risk factors. You can lower your likelihood of having a stroke by following these steps:

    • Keep your blood pressure in check and take medication regularly if you need it. About 70 percent of stroke victims have high blood pressure, according to an article in "Environmental Nutrition."
    • Healthy bodies and hearts and healthy brains go together, so exercise regularly and try to shed those excess pounds.
    • Stop smoking (or better yet, don't start). Lawrence Appel and Rafael Llinas of Johns Hopkins University say that within five years of quitting, you'll cancel your increased risk of stroke from smoking.
    • If you're diabetic, your stroke risk increases, but keeping control of your blood sugar levels also controls your susceptibility to stroke.
    • Limit cholesterol.

    Risk of a second stroke also is high. According to "FDA Consumer," about 25 percent of people who've had a stroke will have another one within five years. You can lower the risk of this happening by practicing a healthy lifestyle that includes exercising (after seeking your doctor's advice on what kind and how much), eating a balanced diet and not smoking. You may need to take medications to control blood pressure or stop future clots from forming. In some cases, it's as simple as taking aspirin daily. Some people require surgery to open clogged arteries and reduce their risk of reoccurrence.

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