When you have had a stroke you are at increased risk of having one again. Yikes! I see patients that have had strokes or TIAs (transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes) that have no clue they have the power to control their own stroke risk.
Here are 5 quick tips or goals that everyone should know to help prevent a stroke.
1. Blood Pressure: Goal is less than 120/80 mmHg
- High blood pressure slowly does damage to our arteries that feed our brain
- I suggest each home have a blood pressure machine. These relatively inexpensive machines allow you to check and track your blood pressure more frequently so you can stay on top of it.
2. Cholesterol: Goal is LDLs less than 70 mg/dL (LDLs are the bad cholesterol)
- High cholesterol clogs up our arteries with plaque and other junk which leads to stroke and heart disease.
- This can be checked with a simple blood test while fasting.
- Diet and exercise can help lower your cholesterol and LDLs (bad cholesterol), while also increasing your HDLs (good cholesterol).
3. Diabetes: Glucose Goal is 70-110 mg/dL
- It is not uncommon for diabetics to be completely unaware that they have diabetes.
- A blood test called an “A1c” is commonly used to get an overview of what a person’s blood sugars have been over a three month period, and is a good indicator for diabetes. Your A1c should be below 7 percent. An A1c of 5.7 percent or higher can indicate you may be at increased risk for developing diabetes.
- Diabetes damages and ages the entire body, especially the brain and heart.
4. Diet: Goal is low fat, low salt
- Stay away from deep fried foods, fast foods, and use olive oil instead of butter or margarine when you cook. The monounsaturated fat in olive oil is one of the best types of fat to use in cooking.
- Get rid of your table salt and learn to watch for sodium on the food labels.
- Eat at least five fruits and vegetables per day.
- Choose whole grains when buying breads, cereals and pastas. Whole grains don’t leave anything out.
- Choose feathers and fins over high-fat (red) meats. Poultry and fish are excellent lean sources of protein. One great choice is salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that may help protect you against stroke and heart disease.
5. Exercise: Goal is 150 minutes per week
- Exercise should be at a moderate level. This is a level where it becomes hard to carry on a normal conversation but you are not completely out of breath. This is a good aerobic level.
- To reach your exercise goal you should exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
- Walking, biking, hiking, dancing are all good examples of aerobic exercise.
Of course, in addition to these quick tips you need to not smoke or abuse alcohol or drugs. Assuming you do not have any of these unhealthy habits, following these five quick will put you well on your way to stroke prevention.