High blood pressure is the single greatest risk factor for stroke. More than 100 million adults in the U.S., have high blood pressure (hypertension), according to statistics reported by the American Heart Association.
It’s the most common cause of cardiovascular-related deaths. Many people with hypertension are unaware of it. Screening for and effectively managing high blood pressure is one of the best steps you can take toward lowering your risk of stroke.
The team at Advanced Heart and Vascular Associates, with offices in Hudson, Brooksville, and Land O’ Lakes, Florida, is dedicated to helping patients keep their hearts as healthy and strong as possible. As the No. 1 cause of death, cardiovascular disease is the largest threat to your health.
Managing your risk for stroke starts with screening for elevations in blood pressure and cholesterol and taking a look at your lifestyle. Habits like smoking, regularly drinking excess alcohol, and consuming a poor diet high in saturated fat boost your risk for stroke and other cardiovascular-related problems.
Fortunately, stroke isn’t inevitable. You can take steps to lower your risk. These same steps will also protect your overall cardiovascular health, slashing your risk of a heart attack as well.
#1 Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure is a silent disease that often causes no symptoms, leaving many people completely unaware of the danger lurking in their bodies. Blood pressure that is too high is a major risk factor for stroke. Keeping your blood pressure within a target range is one of the best ways to lower your stroke risk.
Have your blood pressure checked. Doctors diagnose high blood pressure when at least three readings consistently measure above 130/80 mmHg. If you have high blood pressure, it’s crucial to work with your doctor to bring your levels into a normal range.
For people with mild hypertension, lifestyle changes may be enough to do the trick. When that’s not enough, medication plays a vital role in keeping blood pressure under control and lowering stroke risk.
#2 Manage cholesterol
Elevated cholesterol is another major risk factor for stroke, as well as heart attack. Much like hypertension, high cholesterol is silent. That’s why it’s important to check your cholesterol and know your numbers.
Saturated fat intake is strongly linked with high cholesterol. Reducing your intake of saturated fats can have a potent impact on lowering your cholesterol. For some patients, cholesterol-lowering medication is necessary to keep your cholesterol out of the danger zone.
#3 Shed extra pounds
Carrying excess pounds forces your heart to work harder and increases your blood pressure. It’s also a risk factor for high cholesterol. Shedding excess weight can dramatically lower blood pressure and thereby reduce your chances of stroke. Slimming down also lowers cholesterol and improves cardiovascular function.
If you’re overweight and have tried to lose weight in the past, talk to your provider about getting help with managing your weight. Medically supervised programs and medication are available to assist you in losing excess weight.
#4 Move your body
Exercise is good for your overall health, and it’s especially great for your heart health. Getting enough physical activity on its own lowers the risk of stroke. Physical activity keeps your heart strong and helps your heart work more efficiently. It also lowers blood pressure, promotes weight management, and lowers cholesterol, all of which reduce the chances of having a stroke.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. You can break it up into 15-minute sessions if that fits your lifestyle better. For weight loss, gradually work your way up 250 minutes each week. That’s about 45 minutes five days a week. Your heart will thank you. Start with walking.
#5 Ditch the vices
Smoking is detrimental to your health and significantly increases the risk of stroke. If you smoke, quitting makes a huge difference. Treatments are available to help. Likewise, if you drink excess alcohol, take steps to limit your intake to one drink or less in a day for women and two drinks or less in a day for men.
Your heart health is in your hands, but you don’t have to go it alone. The Advanced Heart and Vascular Associates team is here to help you take care of your cardiovascular health and live a long, healthy life. Take the first step by calling or sending a message to one of our offices to schedule an appointment. We offer in-person and telehealth appointments to meet all of your cardiovascular needs.