A stroke can be a devastating event with serious long-term consequences. Advances in stroke treatment have made the long term outcome for stroke patients better. However, there is often a short window of time for effective treatment. One important approach to stroke care includes prevention, especially for people who are at risk. Not every stroke is preventable but there are some known preventable risk factors that can be modified with lifestyle habits.
It is helpful to know some of the controllable causes of stroke and to learn how to control them.
1. Lower high blood pressure
Hypertension is chronic high blood pressure. It raises the risk of stroke and it also contributes to the development of heart disease and cerebrovascular disease- 2 well-known stroke risk factors. The first step in effective management of hypertension requires diagnosis through regular blood pressure screenings. Treatment of hypertension can include a diet low in salt, weight management, regular exercise or stress control. Sometimes medication to lower blood pressure is required. Your doctor can advise you on the best approaches for you when it comes to maintaining a normal blood pressure.
2. Control heart disease
Heart disease can be present at birth. It may occur later in life due to hereditary. Heart disease can develop a result of hypertension, obesity, diabetes or high cholesterol. Heart disease can include coronary artery disease (disease of the blood vessels that supply the heart), heart valve problems, heart muscle problems, an enlarged heart or an irregular heartbeat.
There are many effective ways to diagnose and treat heart disease, depending on the cause. As with hypertension, the best approach is to have regular check ups with your doctor to detect problems early before they progress.
3. Lower high cholesterol
High cholesterol contributes to heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. It is usually the result of a diet high in unhealthy kinds of fat. Lowering cholesterol requires a diet with moderate fat intake, moderate exercise and sometimes medication.
4. Control diabetes
Diabetes can contribute to cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease. Diabetes is a disorder of blood sugar metabolism. Diabetes may be inborn or acquired. People with type 1 diabetes require close management of blood sugar levels, usually with insulin treatment. People with type 2 diabetes require management of food intake, weight management and sometimes medication to maintain desirable levels of blood sugar.
5. Manage obesity
Obesity is also a risk factor for stroke. It can contribute to hypertension and high cholesterol. Obesity is often managed by diet and exercise. Sometimes, weight loss supplements or surgical procedures for weight loss can help when it is difficult to lose weight with diet and exercise alone. Genetics play a role in obesity as some people are more predisposed to being overweight than others, making weight loss a bigger challenge.
6. Stop smoking
Smoking contributes to heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and hypertension. Smoking can be a difficult habit to break. Different approaches, including behavioral control, counseling, support groups, nicotine patches and smoking cessation programs can be used to help quit smoking. Research shows that many of the harmful effects of smoking can be reversed over time when smoking is discontinued. Often, smoking cessation is more successful when guided by a trained health care professional.
7. Manage stress
Stress can contribute to stroke risk by contributing to hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cerebrovascular disease. Management of stress and anxiety often involves a comprehensive approach to behavior and emotional responses. Stress is not objectively measurable and requires a long term approach for optimal control.
Other less common causes of stroke may be more complex such as autoimmune disease and blood clotting disorders. These medical problems require long-term close medical management by a physician.