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brainLet’s continue our discussion of strokes, since May is Stroke Awareness month.  Did you know that you can help prevent a stroke?  Yes, you can!  Is it possible to follow all the guidelines for stroke prevention and still have a stroke?  Unfortunately, yes – but with lifestyle modifications it is estimated that up to 80% of all strokes can be prevented.  So let’s start lowering your risks!

1) Maintain a normal blood pressure: Whether by lifestyle modifications or taking appropriate blood pressure medicine and adhering to lifestyle modifications.  Hypertension is a major risk factor if left untreated.  I encourage all patients over the age of 40 to buy a blood pressure monitor for periodic use, even if they do not have high blood pressure.  A normal blood pressure is 120/80 or below.

2) Stop smoking or don’t start: Smoking doubles the risk of stroke. It damages blood vessel walls, speeds up artery clogging, raises blood pressure and makes the heart work harder.  If you are a smoker, talk to your health care provider about ways to stop smoking.  Cutting back is a good place to start.  Set goals and celebrate reaching them.

3) Control your alcohol use: Alcohol use has been linked to stroke in many studies. It is recommended that women have only 1 drink per day and men no more than 2 drinks per day.

4) Maintain a normal cholesterol:  You should be on cholesterol lowering medication daily if your cholesterol is greater than 200.  You can also lower it many times by maintaining a healthy diet low in saturated and high in fiber.  After the age of forty or if you are obese (BMI >/30), you should have your cholesterol checked yearly by your health care provider.

5) Manage your weight with exercise and diet: Excess weight can strain your heart and put you at greater risk for strokes.  It is recommended that you exercise moderately for at least 30 mins per day at least 5 times a week.  Maintain a diet low in calories, salt, saturated and trans fats and cholesterol. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

These are ways that anyone can take a step in the right direction in preventing strokes, or if you have had a stroke it can reduce your incidence of another strokes.  Million Hearts is a national initiative with its goal to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes before 2017.  Take a moment and visit their website for more information and Take The Pledge!  http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/individuals.html