Strokes can happen anytime, anywhere and at any age, which is why it’s important to know how to reduce your risk, says the American Stroke Association.
First, check your blood pressure regularly.
“Checking your blood pressure regularly and getting it to a healthy range is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of stroke,” Dr. Mitchell Elkind, president of the American Heart Association (AHA) and professor of neurology and epidemiology at Columbia University in New York City, said in an association news release.
- Tips for keeping high blood pressure in check:
- Take medications as prescribed.
- Check the labels on over-the-counter cold or flu drugs, as they may increase your blood pressure. NSAIDs may raise blood pressure, so consider acetaminophen instead.
- Eat colorful fruits and veggies.
- Get seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. Get treatment if you have sleep apnea or a similar problem.
- Practice mindfulness and be aware of your breathing, because it could reduce blood pressure.
- Be active. Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
- Reducing the risk of stroke takes more than changing daily habits.
“Structural racism and other forms of discrimination make it more difficult for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, LGBT and other marginalized people to access the tools they need to fully control their risk factors for stroke,” Elkind said in a news release from the American Stroke Association, which is part of the AHA.
Historically marginalized people live with more stress and less access to health care. As a result, up to 40 percent of Black adults have high blood pressure and Blacks who have a stroke are more than twice as likely to die from it than whites.
“At the American Stroke Association and American Heart Association, we’re working with individuals, organizations, businesses and government to address the root causes of these inequities to ensure longer, healthier lives for all. It will take all of us, coming together to make change at individual and structural levels,” Elkind said.
In addition to managing your risks, Elkind advises everyone to be ready to save a life by remembering the most common signs of stroke — FAST F for face drooping, A for arm weakness, S for speech difficulty and T for time to call 911.
“Getting emergency medical treatment for a stroke is safe, even during the pandemic,” Elkind said. “Calling 911 helps treatment start even before you reach the hospital, improving chances for a better recovery.”