About 800,000 Americans have a stroke each year. Strokes happen when the brain doesn’t get enough blood, either because an artery burst or a clot blocked the blood flow. Some risk factors, such as getting older and being male, can’t be changed. But studies have found 10 factors that can:
1. High blood pressure. Stroke risk is four to six times higher in those with hypertension. Get your blood pressure checked regularly.
2. Diabetes. High blood sugar damages blood vessels in the brain. People with diabetes have 1.5 times the stroke risk. Work with your doctor to manage your blood glucose.
3. Heart disease. A misshapen heart or irregular heartbeat could contribute to stroke. To treat your condition, your doctor might recommend surgery or medication.
4. Abnormal cholesterol. High levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and low levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol clog arteries. Have yours checked at least once every five years.
5. Waist-to-hip ratio. Being heavy contributes to all four of the previous risk factors. To maintain a healthy weight, balance the number of calories you eat with your physical activity level.
6. Unhealthy diet. Load up on fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins to lower your risk.
7. Not exercising. Working out keeps your blood flowing and your heart strong. Aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
8. Smoking. All forms of tobacco can cause blockages in the artery leading to the brain. Nicotine also raises blood pressure and thickens the blood. Kick the habit and your stroke risk drops immediately.
9. Drinking alcohol. Binge drinking thins blood, increasing bleeding risk. Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women or two for men.
10. Stress. Constant psychological pressure may damage artery walls. To calm down, try positive self-talk. Don’t think, “I can’t do this.” Tell yourself, “I’ll do the best I can.”
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