LITTLE ROCK, Ark (News release) — October 29 is World Stroke Day and the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, which is the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke, provides five tips to help Arkansas residents to feel healthier and avoid one of the most common causes of disability and death.
Strokes don’t discriminate. They can happen to anyone, at any age – and about one in four people worldwide will have one in their lifetime. The good news? Up to 80 percent of first strokes may be prevented. Stroke is often thought of as something that happens to older people, but more people under 50 are having strokes, due to increased risky behaviors, such as smoking and untreated high blood pressure.
“Healthy habits can protect and improve brain function and lower your stroke risk. These simple suggestions are great for everyone to follow, even if you don’t think you’re likely to have a stroke,” says Matthew Striping, Senior Rural Health Director with the American Heart Association. “While many adults don’t think they are at risk for stroke or reduced brain function, the reality is that nearly half of all adults in America have high blood pressure and untreated high blood pressure is one of the most common causes of stroke.” Nearly 40% of Arkansas adults currently have hypertension, and it’s estimated by the year 2030 that roughly 750,000 Arkansans will have high blood pressure. That amount is enough to fill Reynolds Razorback Stadium ten times over.
Here are five tips to reduce your risk of stroke and maintain mental sharpness as you age:
- Keep blood pressure in mind and under control. Get your blood pressure into a healthy range (under 130/80). High blood pressure is the no. 1 controllable risk factor for stroke. Work with your doctor to manage it.
- Eat colorful fruits and veggies. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower blood pressure over time, which can help reduce your stroke risk. Some fruits and vegetables are especially rich in vitamins and minerals that improve brain function and heart health – try mangoes, avocados and blueberries.
- Rest up. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night can improve brain function both today and long-term. Make it happen with a soothing bedtime routine and avoid screen time before bed. Sleep-related breathing issues may increase stroke risk, so seek treatment right away if you suspect sleep apnea or a similar problem.
- Meditate. Emerging science shows that practicing mindfulness and being aware of your breathing may significantly reduce blood pressure and may improve blood flow to the brain. A quick way to be mindful anytime is to pause, notice your breath and take in little details in your surroundings.
- Take a walk. Getting active activates brain cells, encouraging them to grow and connect more efficiently. For clear health benefits, adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of those activities). In addition, two days per week of moderate- to- high intensity muscle strengthening activity is recommended.