Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, each year more than 700,000 people suffer from a stroke and about 160,000 die from complications related to stroke. For adults, it is the most common cause of disability, not only robbing them of their independence, but reducing their quality of life. A stroke occurs when blood fails to circulate properly to the brain. This lack of circulation and decreased blood flow causes brain cells to die. There are two types of strokes, ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are caused by the blockage of blood flow, and hemorrhagic strokes are caused by bleeding. The good news is that stroke prevention is possible.
The biggest risk related to stroke is high blood pressure. To keep blood pressure within a normal range, you need to modify your eating and exercise habits. Blood pressure can be lowered through a diet that avoids foods that are high in sodium, cholesterol, refined sugars, and saturated and trans fats. It is important to eat foods that are high in nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and calcium. A healthy diet will include a variety of natural foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Exercising regularly also helps to lower your blood pressure. This is because physical activity strengthens your heart and helps it to pump more blood with less effort, which will decrease pressure on your arteries. Try to exercise at for about 30 minutes at least three days a week.
The most common cause of a stroke is the blockage of the carotid artery, the main artery in the neck that blood uses to travel to the brain. Smoking is associated with the fatty substance build up in this artery. Inhaling cigarette smoke produces many effects that cause damage to your cerebrovascular system and cigarettes contain many substances that increase the risk of stroke. Carbon monoxide decreases the amount of oxygen your blood is able to carry to your brain, while nicotine raises your blood pressure. It is also important that you try to avoid being around cigarettes as smoke will cause your blood to become thicker therefore making it more likely to clot. If you’re a current smoker, it’s important to try to stop as soon as possible because by quitting you will greatly reduce the chances of having a smoking-induced stroke as well as your overall stroke risk.
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