A stroke can happen to anyone at any time, even to a person in seemingly good health.
Research has shown that if you have a family history of stroke or any of the factors described below, you may have an elevated risk of suffering a stroke. Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of stroke for most people.
Here are our 3 top tips for reducing the risk of a stroke.
What causes a stroke?
A stroke is an interruption of blood to any area of the brain, denying it oxygen and nutrients. Without oxygen, brain cells can begin to die in just minutes. According to the American Heart Association, strokes accounted for about 1 of every 19 deaths and was the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. It is also one of the leading causes of long-term disability.
What are the risk factors for a stroke?
The risk factors for stroke or heart attack are the same. They include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Family history
If you have high blood pressure, it can more than double your risk of having stroke. According to the American Medical Association, monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference people can make to their vascular health.
What can you do to reduce the risk of a stroke?
1. CONTROL YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
While a normal blood pressure reading for most adults is around 120/80, that may not be ideal for everyone. For some, a less aggressive goal may be more appropriate, so talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
Here are a few practical ways to limit your risk of suffering a stroke.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Exercise more.
- Reduce the salt in your diet (roughly 1,500 milligrams a day for most people)
- Avoid hamburgers, fried foods and high-cholesterol meals.
- Limit your alcohol intake. (Heavy drinking makes blood clots more likely to form.)
2. KNOW YOUR RISK FACTORS
Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but underlying conditions can cause strokes if left untreated. For example, an irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation, can cause blood to pool in your heart, where it can clot. If that clot travels to your brain, it can cause a stroke.
In addition, a family history of strokes may put you at greater risk, especially if a family member has suffered a stroke before reaching age 65. Sometimes strokes are caused by genetic disorders like CADASIL, which can block blood flow in the brain.
3. ACT FAST
As mentioned above, if a stroke does occur, brain damage can begin within minutes. Don’t shrug off unusual symptoms or behavior. If someone you know is acting unusual, get professional help right away.
Signs of a stroke include weakness on one side of the body, numbness of the face, severe headache, blindness, numbness or tingling, or stumbling. The National Stroke Association has created an easy acronym to help you remember, and act on, the signs of a stroke.
F – Face Drooping
A – Arm Weakness
S – Slurred Speech
T – Time to call 911
The bottom line is that it is possible to mitigate or reduce your risk of suffering a stroke, but it can still happen to anyone, any time. Colonial Life disability, life, or critical illness insurance coverage can help you and your family find financial peace of mind when facing stroke, heart attack, or other catastrophic illnesses. Are you a Colonial Life policyholder? To learn more about your coverage and file a claim, visit the Colonial Life for Policyholder’s portal.