Prevenative measures to help lower your stroke risk

October 9, 2015

On average, every 45 seconds, someone in North America has a stroke. Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death in Canada. Here are some of the warning signs you should recognize and some easy ways to reduce your stroke risk.

Prevenative measures to help lower your stroke risk

A brief introduction to strokes

  • Approximately 88 percent of all strokes are ischemic, which is when a clot blocks blood flow to a part of the brain. Most clots form in an artery that is already narrowed by atherosclerosis, either in the brain itself or the carotid artery in the neck.
  • Nine percent are hemorrhagic strokes, where a burst blood vessel or severe head injury causes bleeding in the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes, which are more likely to be fatal, are more common in people with high blood pressure.

Recognize the warning signs

Warning signs include sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm and leg on one side of the body; difficulty speaking or understanding others; impaired vision in one eye; and dizziness. Immediate treatment is critical, even if the symptoms disappear.

  • Prompt treatment may be life-­saving, and can minimize permanent damage to movement, speech, vision and mental function.

6 preventive measures you should take

Although the death rate from stroke decreased from 1990 to 2000, the actual number of fatalities rose: we have a better understanding of key risk factors, but many North Americans persist in lifestyle habits that increase the risk; these include smoking, excessive use of alcohol, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Diet plays an important role in reducing risk. In fact, many of the same recommendations made for people who have heart disease, high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol levels apply to people who are at risk for a stroke.

  1. Reduce fats. Eat less fat, especially saturated animal fats, trans fats and tropical (palm and coconut) oils.
  2. Increase omega-3s. Some fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to prevent blood clots by reducing the stickiness of blood platelets. Doctors recommend salmon, trout, mackerel or other oily cold-water fish two or three times a week. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts and walnut oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, soybeans and leafy greens.
  3. Increase garlic and onions. These may decrease the tendency of the blood to clot, and they also boost the body's natural clot-dissolving mechanism.
  4. Try Chinese tree ear mushrooms. This mushroom is available dried in Chinese markets and gourmet shops. When rehydrated with a little boiling water, it makes a tasty addition to soups, stews and casseroles. A recent study found that eating 15 millilitres (one tablespoon) of the soaked mushroom three or four times a week may be as effective as a daily aspirin — but without the same risk of gastrointestinal irritation.
  5. Limit alcohol. Excessive alcohol use is linked to an increased stroke risk, which is compounded if the person also smokes. It's best to abstain completely from smoking and to use alcohol in moderation.
  6. Exercise regularly. It reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack by helping control weight and blood cholesterol levels.

Foods to favour

  • Scientific evidence shows that vitamin E reduces the tendency to form blood clots. Opt for nuts, seeds, wheat germ and green leafy vegetables.
  • Vitamin C strengthens blood vessel walls and thus may protect against brain hemorrhages; most fruits (especially citrus) and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C.
  • Produce is high in potassium, which helps maintain normal blood pressure, so eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Add oat bran, legumes, flax and psyllium to your diet.
  • Limit your salt intake; excessive sodium increases the body's fluid volume and may raise blood pressure.
  • And avoid fat- and cholesterol-intense animal and dairy products.

Consider this guide and reduce your risk of having a stroke with these healthy lifestyle changes.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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