Strokes are scary, seemingly leaping out of nowhere. They are the third leading cause of death in the United States and for those who survive, they are the leading cause of disability in adults. But strokes don’t have to be mysterious. In fact, research shows 90 percent of strokes are caused by dietary and lifestyle factors, which means you can lower your risk with a few changes to how you live.
A stoke occurs when an artery that carries blood to the brain either becomes blocked or ruptures. This starves the brain of blood and oxygen, often causing permanent brain damage. A stroke can leave someone with impaired speech, memory, or movement. How this damage affects the person depends on which parts of the brain were damaged and to what degree.
What causes a stroke
Although strokes are a leading cause of disability in adults, the good news is up to 90 percent of them are preventable. This means simple changes to your diet and lifestyle will protect your brain health well into old age. Research has found the great majority of strokes are caused by the following:
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure is the strongest link, more than doubling the risk
- Smoking: Doubles your risk
- Poor diet: Increases the risk by 30 percent
- Lack of exercise: Exercise four or more hours a week reduces your risk by 30 percent
- Drinking too much: Thirty or more drinks a month increases the risk by 50 percent
- Stress and depression: These raise the risk by more than 30 percent
- Excess abdominal fat
- Heart disorders
Revamping your diet is key to stroke prevention
The most important thing is to revamp your diet. This means focusing on whole foods, plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and ditching sodas, desserts, sweet coffee drinks, and processed foods. It can be difficult at first but most people begin feeling significantly better right away, which motivates them to stick with better eating habits.
Lower stroke risk by stabilizing blood sugar
A whole foods diet should focus on keeping blood sugar stable. High blood sugar causes inflammation, which damages and thickens arterial walls and promotes the formation of arterial plaques and blood clots. People with Type 2 diabetes, a disease of high blood sugar, are two to four times more likely to have a stroke or heart attack than those without the disease.
Just because something is natural, whole, or organic does not necessarily mean it is good for stabilizing blood sugar levels. Use natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, agave, or honey sparingly, and minimize consumption of starchy foods such as potatoes and grains.
Regular exercise prevents stroke or severity of strokes
When it comes to protecting brain health, exercise is a magic bullet. Regular exercise helps keep blood vessels strong and dilated, improves blood flow to the brain, and helps maintain a healthier metabolism. If one does have a stroke, research shows having exercised regularly significantly lowers the severity of the stroke and offers a better chance for long-term recovery. You do not need to take up bodybuilding or triathlons; simply walking regularly can be very beneficial.
Nutritional compounds to prevent stroke
Although diet and lifestyle strategies are key to stroke prevention, certain nutritional compounds can help support the arteries and healthy blood pressure, oxygenate the brain, stabilize blood sugar, and more. Ask my office how we can help you lower your risk of stroke and support your brain health.
Blood tests that can warn you of a stroke
It always amazes me when patients supply me with their laboratory history and there are no screening tests for heart disease or stroke. These are two of the leading causes of death and the medical community is failing to properly screen for prevention. Main stream medicine largely relies on the lipid panel containing the cholesterol marker to screen for heart disease. This may play a small role in heart disease prevention but falls very short of being a comprehensive screening. Tests such as a homocysteine, c-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen are much better markers to screen for an impending heart attack or stroke. Often these tests are not run because they may not be covered by insurance. A homocysteine test can run as much as $350.00 and doctors don’t order the test due to the financial burden to the patient. This is why I choose to circumvent the insurance companies and order prepaid labs. If a patient chooses to pay for the homocysteine test, rather than go through insurance billing, then the cost of the test is only $30. Would you pay $30 to prevent a stroke?