Despite stroke’s being on the decline, each year more women have strokes than men.
Despite stroke’s being on the decline in the U.S., each year more women have strokes than men. Stroke is the third leading cause of death for women, and the fifth for men. Because women live longer than men, they’re more likely to suffer a stroke when they live alone, and are likely to have a worse recovery. Just as with heart attack, women even have different stroke symptoms including fainting, weakness, behavioral changes, agitation, hallucination, nausea and vomiting and hiccups. Women also may not perceive themselves at risk of stroke.
Everyone can reduce their risk of stroke. Here’s some of the best ways:
Aside from helping to lower blood pressure and helping in weight loss, exercise is a stand-alone stroke reducer. Exercising moderately (you can carry on a conversation but may not feel like it) for 30 minutes five times a week will cut your risk of stroke by 20 percent.
Lower your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure damages arteries and weakened arteries can lead to stroke. The American Heart Association says about 87 percent of strokes are ischemic strokes (caused by narrowed or clogged blood vessels in the brain), and 13 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic (caused when a blood vessel ruptures near the brain). High blood pressure affects both types. In fact, uncontrolled high blood pressure increases stroke risk four to six times. Maintaining a blood pressure less than 120/80, or in some instances a less aggressive 140/90 if you’re working with your doctor, is the goal. To lower BP: Watch salt intake, eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise daily and quit smoking. Monitor your blood pressure frequently with an at home blood pressure monitor.
Being overweight increases your risk of having an ischemic stroke by 22 percent while obesity can up your risk a whopping 64 percent. But staying at a healthy weight can reduce your stroke risk. In fact, even dropping ten pounds is enough to lower your risk according to the Stroke Association. Maintain a healthy weight by eating more fruits and veggies, steam, grill or bake food instead of frying, add healthy fish like salmon and mackerel to your menu, replace red meat more often with chicken and turkey, and choose low fat options like skim milk, low fat yogurt and salad dressings.
Control Atrial Fibrillation
The National Stroke Association says atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat, affects about 2.2 million people in the U.S. Irregular heartbeats can cause blood to collect in the heart, travel to the brain and cause a stroke. AFib is more common in those over 60 and is often asymptotic. Being checked for Afib and managing it with your doctor is a great way to prevent stroke.
Having diabetes damages blood vessels and over time can make clots more likely to develop. Controlling your diabetes is of critical importance. Monitor your blood sugar according to your doctor’s guidance, take medication as prescribed and watch your diet.
Drink in Moderation
Drinking one glass of alcohol per day may keep your stroke risk down, but more than that can up your risk. If you don’t drink, you needn’t start, but if you do, limit alcohol to one 5 ounce glass of wine or one 12 ounce beer daily.
Identify if you’re having a stroke FAST
The National Stroke Association has developed the acronym FAST to learn the symptoms of stroke and decide quickly if you or someone else may be having one:
Face – Does one side of your face droop when smiling?
Arms – Lift both arms overhead, does one slide back down?
Speech – Is speech slurred or weird sounding?
Time – Is of the essence. If any of these signs are present, getting help within three hours can mean the difference between a full recovery and permanent disability or death.