About The Author
Dr. Rita Hanson
Medical Director for Clinical Integration at Network Health WI
May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Knowing how to recognize stroke symptoms significantly increases your chances of surviving one. But did you know up to 70 percent of strokes are preventable? It turns out you can lower your risk by addressing certain lifestyle factors.
Your body needs a continuous source of oxygen to function. A stroke occurs when your brain is deprived of oxygen because a blood vessel leading to your brain is blocked by a clot, too narrow for blood flow, or develops a leak. All of these things prevent oxygen from getting to the brain.
There are two types of risk factors that increase your chances of having a stroke:
- Non-modifiable risk factors include age, family history or ethnicity. Abnormal heart valves or malformation in the blood vessels also fall in this category.
- Modifiable risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, uncontrolled diabetes and smoking.
One of the best things you can do to lower your risk for a stroke – as well as improve your overall health – is seeing your personal doctor for an annual exam. Your doctor can listen to your heart and take your blood, do a cholesterol check to make sure your levels are within the normal range and order a blood sugar screening to check for diabetes. Network Health encourages all members to see their personal doctor annually and covers these visits with a small or no co-pay.
Other steps to lower your risk for stroke include:
- Lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Quitting smoking. If you need help quitting, consider a smoking cessation class or support group. Your personal doctor can also offer assistance.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. This means keeping your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. You can find out your BMI using the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s calculator.
- Improving your diet and getting more exercise. Doing these things can help keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in the healthy range as well as help prevent diabetes.
- Limiting your alcohol intake
To learn more ways to prevent a stroke, talk to your personal doctor. To find a personal doctor near you, contact your health insurance provider.