If you are recovering from a stroke, the biggest question on your mind is probably “How can I prevent a stroke from happening to me again?” There are several stroke guidelines you can follow to control your risks.
The National Stroke Association states some risk factors cannot be controlled. These include:
- your family history
- your gender
- your age
- your race
According to the National Stroke Association, after the age of 55, your risk of having a stroke doubles each decade. They also tell us that women experience more strokes than men do, and have increased disability after a stroke. African Americans, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders all have an increased risk of stroke.
Stroke prevention focuses on risk factors you can control. You can control:
- Lifestyle choices, such as lack of exercise
- Being overweight
- Smoking and drinking alcohol
- Getting control of high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol
It does take commitment and determination, but eliminating these things from your life will reduce the risk of having another stroke.
Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a heart condition called atrial fibrillation are controllable risk factors, according to the National Stroke Association.
Remember the Three C’s when thinking about stroke prevention:
- Create – create a stroke prevention plan you can live with.
- Commit – commit to following stroke guidelines and making small changes each week or two.
- Connect- connect with others who are making healthy changes in their lifestyle
Create a Stroke Prevention Plan
After your stroke, you were given stroke guidelines about what to eat, or more likely, what not to eat, how to exercise, warning signs to watch out for, and advice about exercise. Now it is time to read through all of that information, and see how it all fits together. Get a pad of paper, and a pen, and list all the things that you want to try to fit into your lifestyle, and cross off all the things that you know you will never do.
Don’t feel overwhelmed, you don’t have to make all these changes today. This is a long range plan. You might want to lose 50 lbs, and lower your blood pressure. You might also want to start an exercise program of some type, and learn more about low fat cooking.
Go over your plan with your family, and your doctor. Get your latest blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar numbers, and write them into the plan. Your doctor can advise you about how long it will take to begin to see changes in these numbers.
If you are a diabetic, have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you might want to meet with a dietitian. They will be able to help you plan healthy meals that will satisfy you, and control stroke risks at the same time.
Commit to Following Stroke Guidelines
Now that you have created your plan, it’s time to commit to making one or two small changes each week. If your plan is to lose weight, which will also lower your blood pressure and help control your blood sugar, you may decide to only eat fruits or vegetables as snacks for the next two weeks. Or you might decide to cut out fast food for the next two weeks. It is your plan, and your choice. Try to pick one healthier eating and one increased activity goal for each 2 week period. Small steps have a way of building up to big changes. Now that you have decided what steps you will take for the next couple of weeks, write them down on a separate piece of paper, and put them where you can see them. Don’t worry about anything else in your plan, you are only committing to these small steps. Review them every morning, and act on them every day. By doing this, you will be moving closer to prevention and farther from the risk of having another stroke.
Connect with Others
This is an important part of making healthy lifestyle changes. Connect with other people who are trying to make healthy changes in their life as well. Your family may be very supportive of your changes, but it is also good to start meeting others who have the same goals as you do. You might join a cooking class, a walking club, an exercise group, or find some fellow bird watchers. This connection will help everyone stay on track to a healthier, stroke free life.
Stroke prevention is a long term commitment. It involves following the stroke guidelines, and fitting them into your lifestyle. Taking small steps will result in big health benefits for you.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a registered health professional for advice.
National Stroke Association,”Stroke Prevention”
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, “What You Need to Know About Stroke”.