By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Stroke is a life threatening medical emergency for which there are several modifiable risk factors. Individuals who want to reduce the likelihood of suffering a stroke may benefit from taking these factors into consideration and make some lifestyle changes.
Stroke claims millions of lives every year worldwide so it is important that people are informed about how to reduce the chances of stroke occurring.
Some of the measures that can be taken to help prevent stroke include:
A healthy diet
Several dietary factors are associated with an increased risk of stroke. For example, a diet with a high sugar and fat content raises the risk for heart disease, cardiovascular disease, hyperglycemia, diabetes, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, overweight and obesity.
Each of these factors, in turn, raises the risk of stroke. Controlling unhealthy factors in the diet therefore helps to reduce stroke risk.
Diet recommendations include:
- A diet that is low in foods containing saturated fats and trans fats such as processed foods, cakes, pastries, deep fried foods, fatty cuts of meat, butter, cream, lard and cheese.
- Foods with unsaturated fats on the other hand, provide health benefits and should be included in the diet. Examples of these foods include nuts, seeds, oily fish, sunflower, rapeseed and olive oils.
- Fibre should be included in the diet and examples include wholegrain bread, pulses, legumes and some fruits such as strawberries and apples.
- About five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables should be consumed each day.
- Daily salt intake should be reduced to no more than 6g (0.2oz) to keep the blood pressure under control.
Regular physical exercise
A healthy and balanced diet should be complemented with regular physical exercise. This helps maintain heart health and a normal body weight. Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity exercise such as cycling, jogging, swimming, skipping or fast walking.
Cutting down drinking and smoking
Excess alcohol consumption should be avoided and any smoking habits should be stopped.
Conditions such as high blood pressure, hypertension, raised cholesterol or rapid heart rate should be brought under control using appropriate medications.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc