At what age do you think a stroke become a concern? It is something that happens to older people, but more people under the age of 50 are having strokes due to increased risky behaviors, such as smoking, underlying medical conditions and untreated high blood pressure.
According to the American Stroke Association – a division of the American Heart Association – strokes don’t discriminate. They can happen to anyone, at any age. About 1 in 4 people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. However, up to 80% of first time strokes may be prevented.
“Healthy habits can protect and improve brain function and lower your stroke risk,” -Dr. Lee Schwamm, MD, American Stroke Association volunteer chairman and executive vice chairman of the department of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The American Stroke Association offers these five tips to help reduce your risk of stroke and maintain mental sharpness as you age:
- Keep blood pressure in mind and under control. High blood pressure is the # 1 controllable risk factor for stroke. Contact your physician and work with him/her. Manage your blood pressure and get it into a healthy range (under 120 over 80).
- Eat colorful fruits and veggies. Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, which may help reduce your stroke risk. Some fruits and vegetables, like mangos, avocados and blueberries, are especially rich in vitamins and minerals that improve brain function and heart health.
- Rest up. Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night, which can improve brain function both today and long-term. A soothing bedtime routine and avoiding screen time for at least one hour before bed can increase the quality of sleep you’re able to get. Sleep-related breathing issues such as sleep apnea or similar problems may also increase stroke risk. Seek treatment right away if you suspect these conditions.
- Meditate. Practicing mindfulness and being aware of your breathing may reduce blood pressure. A quick way to be mindful anytime is to pause, notice your breath and observe your surroundings.
- Take a hike. Getting active activates brain cells, encouraging them to grow and connect more efficiently. Aerobic exercise, like going for a walk, also gives your arteries a workout and makes your brain more resilient to reductions in blood flow that can cause strokes. The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination) and two days per week of moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening activity.
“These simple suggestions are great for everyone to follow, even if you don’t think you’re likely to have a stroke. While many adults don’t think they are at risk for stroke or reduced brain function, the reality is that nearly half of all adults in America have high blood pressure, and untreated high blood pressure is one of the most common causes of stroke and also causes up to 60% of dementia.” – Dr. Lee Schwamm, MD
For more information and tips for preventing stroke, visit Stroke.org/WorldStrokeDay.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
For more heart healthy information, visit the American Heart Association.