How to Prevent Strokes?
We all know that stroke is a sudden and devastating illness – however many people are not aware of its widespread impact. According to the Stroke Association (http://stroke.org.uk), there are around 150,000 strokes in the UK every year. That is more than one every FIVE minutes!
It is, unfortunately, one of those illnesses where the prevention, although often difficult, is much better than the consequences…
Firstly, what is a stroke?
What is a Stroke?
Like all organs, the brain needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain injury, disability and possibly death.
There are two main causes:
- Ischaemic – Blood supply stops due to a blood clot (85% of all cases)
- Haemorrhagic – Weakened blood vessels supplying the brain burst
Certain conditions increase the likeliness of having a stroke, including:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Atrial fibrillation
How to Prevent a Stroke
There is no easy way around it. If you’re at a higher risk of a stroke, you’re going to have to make some life changing habits – possibly habits you have been putting off for quite some time..? Here are a few things you need to do:
1. Lower Blood Pressure
Try doing the following to lower your blood pressure:
- Reduce your salt intake – less than half a teaspoon a day
- Avoid high-cholesterol food, such as, fast foods, ice cream, cheeses, etc.
- Eat your “5-a-day” fruit and veg.
2. Lose Weight
It is quite simple, in theory: eat less, eat healthily and increase your activity levels… Which leads us onto point 3:
3. Do More Exercise
Try to exercise to a moderate level for five days a week and for 30 mins a day. If you don’t know the best ways to get active, check out our blog on How to get started: https://www.dyfivalleyhealth.org/exercise-how-to-get-started/
- Park the car a little further away to the supermarket – to walk a little more
- Take the stairs and not the lift / escalator
- Go for a stroll somewhere peaceful: in the park, on the beach, etc.
4. Limit Alcohol Intake
If you drink then do it in moderation.
- Keep it under 14 units per week – 14 units is around 5/6 pints or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine
- Spread these 14 units over 3 or more days a week
- For more information on alcohol limits see the NHS site: (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calculating-alcohol-units/)
5. Quit Smoking
Smoking accelerates clot formation in a few ways. It thickens the blood and it increases the amount of plaque build-up in the arteries.
There are many ways to quit smoking. We are always happy to help you with advice, support and information – speak to someone in the pharmacy or one of the nurses. For now, check out the NHS guide (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/10-self-help-tips-to-stop-smoking/).
Recognising a Stroke
The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person, but usually begin suddenly.
As different parts of your brain control different parts of your body, your symptoms will depend on the part of your brain affected and the extent of the damage.
The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word F.A.S.T.:
- Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
- Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.
- Talk – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.
It’s important for everyone to be aware of these signs and symptoms, particularly if you live with or care for somebody in a high-risk group, such as someone who is elderly or has diabetes or high blood pressure.
If you need help with any of the points we have mentioned in the blog, please contact us and we will be happy to help you!
- Stroke Association (http://stroke.org.uk)
- NHS – Strokes (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/)
- How to start exercising: https://www.dyfivalleyhealth.org/exercise-how-to-get-started/