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Avoid Stroke With the Four-Step Plan

Avoid stroke and here’s more good news on that. A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off and cells start to die. It is the fourth biggest killer and the main cause of disability.

The amount of people having a stroke has dropped by 20% in the past decade, while deaths from a stroke have more than halved in the same period, thanks to healthier lifestyles, drugs to cut cholesterol, high blood pressure and better treatment. Unfortunately, someone still has a stroke every five minutes, so there’s more we can do to raise awareness, says Mark MacDonald from the Stroke Association.

Often, important stroke risk factors, such as atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and diabetes, can be prevented or managed through healthy eating, exercise and medical treatment. Help protect yourself by following these simple steps…

Step 1. Look At Your Lifestyle

How you live your life can have a huge impact on your chances to avoid stroke.

Regular exercise can cut your risk by 27% — it lowers your blood pressure and helps you maintain a healthy weight. While smoking doubles your risk of dying from a stroke because it damages your arteries, raises your blood pressure and makes your blood more likely to clot. Drinking too much alcohol also hikes up your blood pressure, making you more prone to a stroke. Binge drinking (having several units in one sitting) is particularly dangerous as it causes a very swift blood-pressure rise. Avoid stroke with this action plan.

  • Stay active. All it takes is 30 minutes moderate activity at least five times a week — walking, gardening and dancing all count.
  • Stop smoking. It may take several attempts but don’t give up.
  • Drink in moderation. No more than 14 units a week, with at least two alcohol-free days.

Step 2. Rethink Your Diet

What you eat affects cholesterol levels and blood pressure — high readings for either raise your stroke risk. Too much salt can increase your blood pressure, but eating plenty of omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish), helps lower it and prevent blood clotting. Too much saturated fat raises cholesterol in your blood, while eating fibre can help reduce it.

Your risk also increases by 22% if you’re overweight or by 64% if you are obese. The most dangerous place to carry extra weight is around your waist, says Claire Fincham, from the Stroke Association. Avoid stroke with this action plan.

  • Cut salt intake. Stick to 1 tsp a day (6g) of salt and read labels to check it isn’t hidden in products. Flavour meals with herbs and spices.
  • Eat plenty of fibre. Can be found in wholegrain cereals, brown rice, grains, fruit and veg. Eat oily fish twice-weekly. Try salmon, trout or mackerel.
  • Cut back on saturated fat. That means less cake, biscuits, hard cheese, fatty and processed meats. When cooking, steam, grill or boil instead of frying.
  • Watch your waist. Aim for a waist measurement of half your height and a BMI below 25.

Step 3. Monitor Your Health

Our arteries become narrower and harder as we age, raising our risk of blockages, so it’s important to attend routine health checks and check your blood pressure and cholesterol. High blood pressure (hypertension) damages the delicate lining of your blood vessels and is the biggest single controllable stroke risk factor in up to half of all strokes, says Claire.

Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause deposits on artery walls and restrict blood flow or raise the risk of a blood clot. Diabetes almost doubles your stroke risk because too much sugar in your blood can damage blood vessels and nerves. Your risk may also rise with health issues such as an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation/AF), sickle cell disease and obstructive sleep apnoea. Avoid stroke with this action plan.

  • Check blood pressure and cholesterol regularly. You can buy at-home monitors/tests at chemists. Or visit your GP, who can prescribe medication and recommend self-help measures to control it.
  • Check your pulse regularly. It can signal AF, which increases your stroke risk fivefold.
  • Treat your diabetes. Insulin for Type 1 and drugs, insulin and/or lifestyle changes for Type 2. Type 2 is commonly undiagnosed so if you have symptoms (feeling thirsty, tired and needing the loo more often), see your GP for a blood test.
  • Take prescribed medication, such as statins for high cholesterol.

Step 4. Know the Signs

It is vital to spot the warning signs of a stroke in you or someone else, because getting quick and effective treatment considerably raises your chances of survival and limits the damage. Take the F.A.S.T. Test.

  • FACE. Has the face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
  • ARMS. Can they lift both arms above their heads and keep them there?
  • SPEECH. Can they speak clearly? Is their speech slurred or garbled? Can they understand what’s being said to them.
  • TIME. If you spot any of these signs, it is time to call emergency services immediately.

E381 – Avoid Stroke With a Four-Step Plan –

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