Every year in the United States, approximately 795,000 people suffer from a stroke. Strokes are the country’s third most common cause of death, and is the leading cause of long-term disability. Certain risk factors for strokes are unavoidable, such as age and genetics. But there are several lifestyle changes you can make that may reduce your risk of having a stroke. Read on to discover 6 things to start doing today.

1. Eat Healthy Food

Eating a balanced diet is one of the best ways to maintain your overall health. It can help keep your weight and blood pressure within the recommended ranges, potentially avoiding a host of medical problems throughout your life, including strokes. Try to eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains, while limiting your intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It’s fine to enjoy some of your more unhealthy favorites from time to time, provided that you focus on the foods that will give your body the nutrients it needs.

2. Exercise

The Surgeon General recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity every week. Examples of such heart-pumping activities include walking, cycling, swimming, and dancing. Regular exercise helps reduce high blood pressure, relieves stress, and can help you maintain a healthy weight. Don’t be put off if you don’t feel you have the time or energy for long workouts. Exercise in 10-minute increments during the course of the week if that’s what fits into your lifestyle. Every bit helps, whether you reach the 150-minute weekly goal or not. Find an activity you enjoy, perhaps one you can do with a friend or family member, and help reduce your stroke risk.

3. Quit Smoking

Smokers are three times more likely to have a stroke than nonsmokers. In addition, the CDC reports that secondhand smoke raises the risk of stroke by 25-30%. More than 8,000 people die each year from strokes caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. Quitting smoking reduces your risk of having a stroke dramatically and immediately, and helps protect those around you as well. Ask your doctor for advice on quitting smoking. If your initial attempt to quit is unsuccessful, don’t let it discourage you from trying again. Your body will thank you for it.

4. Manage Stress

Mental stress can manifest with physical symptoms, including raising your blood pressure and your risk of having a stroke. We are often advised to reduce the amount of stress in our lives to improve our health in various ways. Unfortunately many sources of stress are unavoidable and cannot be eliminated. For this reason, it’s essential to find healthier ways of coping with stress. Practice calming techniques when you feel the pressure beginning to build. Exercise can be an effective stress-reliever, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time. Explore what works for you and make it part of your daily lifestyle.

5. Monitor Your Health

Some people have a greater chance of becoming stroke victims than others. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from a stroke, and individuals with a family history of stroke are also at higher risk. But remember, no one is completely immune. That’s why one of the most effective methods of stroke prevention is to keep tabs on your current health status. Visit your doctor for regular checkups, and stay aware of your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Health issues such as diabetes, circulation problems, and migraines, and taking certain medications, such as those containing hormones, can raise your risk of having a stroke. Atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of irregular heartbeat, is also a major cause of stroke. Monitoring health issues such as these is critical for reducing your risk of having a stroke.

6. Educate Yourself About Strokes

Taking steps to improve your overall health has many benefits, including lowering your risk of having a stroke. But because nothing will ever eliminate your risk completely, it’s crucial that you learn about the early warning signs of stroke so you can recognize them in yourself and others. Getting medical attention quickly when the symptoms occur is your best chance of minimizing the damage a stroke can cause. Educating yourself about stroke risks, symptoms, and prevention can save a life.

Want to learn more about stroke prevention or other health topics? Contact us about the educational opportunities we offer to the community.