News | Published May 15, 2012 | Written by Pete Roy, MD, neurology, Mount Nittany Physician Group

A guide to stroke prevention

Approximately 795,000 strokes will occur in the United States this year - one will strike every 40 seconds and will take a life approximately every four minutes. For this reason, it is important to take actions that support stroke prevention.

To recognize May as National Stroke Awareness Month, you can take steps to lower your risk of a stroke.

There are many factors that can help reduce the risk of stroke. According to studies cited by the National Stroke Association, working with a healthcare professional to find personal ways to help reduce the risk can prevent up to 80 percent of strokes.

The following tips are general guidelines to help prevent a stroke.

  • Monitor your blood pressure. If untreated, high blood pressure is a risk factor for a stroke. Make sure you have your blood pressure checked at least once a year to ensure it is in control. If your blood pressure is high, speak with your physician for ways to lower it.
  • Keep your cholesterol levels down. High cholesterol levels are also a cause of stroke, so make sure to monitor your cholesterol levels. See your physician if your total cholesterol level is more than 200.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking can double your risk of a stroke, because it damages blood vessel walls, clogs arteries more quickly, raises blood pressure and makes the heart work harder overall. For tips on how to quit smoking, speak with your primary care provider.
  • Control your sugar. Diabetes and uncontrolled glucose can lead to an increased risk of stroke. Have your fasting blood glucose checked and see your physician if it is greater than 100.
  • Limit alcohol use. The use of alcohol has been connected to the incidence of stroke, so it is important to monitor your alcohol intake. If you drink, do so only in moderation, which is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
  • Treat any circulatory problems. When a person has an issue with circulation, fatty deposits can block arteries carrying blood to the brain and cause a stroke. One factor that harms the circulatory system is excess weight. Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week, and maintain a diet low in calories, salt, cholesterol and saturated and trans fats.

For an individual stroke prevention plan, talk with your physician. Certain health concerns can greatly increase a person's risk of a stroke. Atrial fibrillation, for example, is an abnormal heartbeat that can increase your risk of stroke by 500 percent. By knowing your personal risks for stroke, you can take all of the steps necessary to help prevent one from occurring.

For more information on stroke prevention, please visit mountnittany.org.

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