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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Preventing a Stroke

If you've just had a mini-stroke, you have a 40% risk of having a big stroke eventually, and about a 10% chance of having that "big one" in the next three months.
You can't bring that risk down to 0 immediately, but you can dial it back considerably. Your doctor will probably recommend a lot of tests. It's hard to see excactly what's going on in every blood vessel in your body, so the doctor will order up blood tests. Blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, C-reactive protein (and A1C, if you are diabetic). The doctor might have something to say about your weight and your physical fitness level, too. Your doctor will set some goals about where all of these values should be, and when they should get there. And maybe even give you some tips on diet and exercise.
But every body is different. Your doctor may or may not have recommended a particular diet or excercise. You can find out about exercise and diet to meet your health goals and reduce the risk of stroke....

If you've read about strokes, you'll know that they can be caused by
  • blood vessels getting narrow from growing plaque deposits, and blocking blood flow
  • broken bits of blood clots or unstable plaques travelling to a narrow place in a blood vessel (maybe one narrowed by plaque) and blocking blood flow
  • damaged blood vessels breaking, causing reduced blood flow downstream, and pooling of blood in the brain at the break
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says the most important treatable risk factors for stroke are
  • Lower your High Blood Pressure
    • Increase potassium in your diet, and reduce salt
    • Get enough vitamin D (10 minutes in the sun)
    • Take medication to lower your blood pressure; avoid medications (like decongestants) that raise it
    • Get more exercise
    • Maintain proper weight
  • Quit Cigarette Smoking. It raises blood pressure, contributes to heart disease, thickens blood.
  • Treat Heart Disease
    • lower your blood pressure (see above)
    • if your doctor says so, take a blood thinner (like aspirin) to prevent clots
    • improve your diet to slow plaque development
    • get checked for coronary artery disease, valve defects, irregular heart beat, or enlargement of the heart, which can all lead to blood clots
  • Warning signs or history of TIA or stroke
    • Learn the warning signs of a stroke and be prepared to call 911 early
    • A second stroke could be twice as bad, if it affects a part of the brain doing double duty for the section damaged in an earlier stroke.
  • Blood sugar, insulin, and diabetes
    • Reduce blood sugar and insulin to control blood pressure
    • Reduce blood sugar and insulin to protect your blood vessels
    • Reduce blood sugar and insulin to control heart disease
    • reduce blood sugar to reduce the amount of brain damage during a stroke
  • Balance your Cholesterol
    • Reduce your LDL to reduce plaque buildup, atherosclerosis, blood vessel narrowing
  • Increase your Physical Activity
    • Inactivity is associated with hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes
    • Aim for a good waist circumference to hip circumference ratio -- a high waist-to-hips ratio raises the ischemic stroke risk by 300%