How to lower your stroke risk
A billionaire and a famous actor both experienced the same health emergency recently – one that surprised many people, given their relatively young ages. One survived, one did not. The two high profile incidents involving Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and actor Luke Perry have drawn renewed attention to the danger of strokes, which strike about 700,000 Americans a year, according to WebMD.
Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures and owner/developer of a large chunk of high-priced downtown Detroit real estate, may have been lucky: his May 26 stroke occurred in a hospital, where he’d been taken because he hadn’t felt well. Doctors were able to perform a catheter procedure immediately. Gilbert, who is 57, is reportedly resting comfortably.
Perry, star of the TV shows “90210” and “Riverdale,” was hospitalized after suffering a massive stroke while at home. Following a second stroke, Perry was taken off life support and died on March 4. He was 52 years old.
A stroke occurs when something blocks the blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.1 The warning signs include a sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body; confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination or a sudden severe headache with no known cause.2
Anyone exhibiting these symptoms should immediately be taken to a medical facility. "During a stroke, every minute counts!," according to the CDC. "Fast treatment can lessen the brain damage that stroke can cause."
What can you do to avoid having a stroke?
Recommendations from the CDC include:
Eat a healthy diet. Foods should be low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber. Limiting salt (sodium) in your diet can also lower your blood pressure. High cholesterol and high blood pressure increase your chances of having a stroke.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for stroke. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure excess body fat.
Engage in regular physical activity. Physical activity can help you stay at a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as a brisk walk, each week. Children and teens should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.
Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your chances of having a stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for stroke. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.
Limit alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women only one. For more information, visit CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health website.
More Information from the CDC:
- Know the Facts About Stroke Cdc-pdf[PDF–264K]
- Know the Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
- Women and Stroke Cdc-pdf[PDF–268K]
- Men and Stroke Cdc-pdf[PDF–248K]
- African-American Women and Stroke Cdc-pdf[PDF–910K]
- African-American Men and Stroke Cdc-pdf[PDF–478K]
- Hispanic Women and Stroke Cdc-pdf[PDF–327K] – Las Mujeres Hispanas y Los Accidentes Cerebrovasculares [PDF–223]
- Hispanic Men and Stroke Cdc-pdf[PDF–340K] – Los Hombres Hispanos y Los Accidentes Cerebrovasculares [PDF–221]
- Hispanics and Stroke Cdc-pdf[PDF–217K] – Las Personas Hispanas y Los Accidentes Cerebrovasculares [PDF–223]