There’s no doubt that genetics play a role in stroke risk. Very strong associations exist between family history, age, and stroke risk. But just because your 30s and 40s are long behind you and your mother or father had a stroke, it does not mean that you’re doomed to a similar fate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that strokes kill 140,000 people per year. Here are some of the ways you can work to avoid that fate.
Maintaining a blood pressure of less than 140/90 can help, but shooting for 135/85 is even better. You can work towards improving blood pressure by limiting salt intake to no more than 1,500 milligrams per day, getting more exercise, and eating at least four servings of vegetables per day.
Dropping a few pounds can also lower stroke risk. If you’re overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can have a major influence on stroke risk. You can initiate weight loss by keeping calories in the 1500-2000 range and selecting nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, lean meats, fish, fruit, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. You can also increase activity to achieve a caloric deficit.
If you’ve got diabetes, making sure you keep up with treatment can influence your stroke risk too. High blood sugar can lead to damaged blood vessels, so eating right and staying on top of exercise and medications can lower your risk for a stroke.
Exercise contributes to lower blood pressure and weight, but it has also been identified as an independent factor for reducing stroke risk. Moderate intensity activity for 30 minutes at least five days a week is an effective way to lower stroke risk. Walking around the neighborhood after breakfast or dinner is an easy way to fit it into your routine.
Your stroke risk is influenced by more than your birthday and family tree. Being proactive about heart health can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and add quality years to your life.