Reduce Your Stroke Risks

reduce your stroke risk

Stroke. It’s something that most people don’t want to think about, but it is a leading cause of death and disability in Canada. More 50,000 new cases of stroke are recorded among Canadians every year, and it’s the 3rd most common cause of death among adults over 40 years old.

If you are concerned about stroke risk, there is something you can do. There are many steps that can be taken to reduce your risk of having a stroke. In this article, we will discuss the different types of strokes, what causes them, and who is at greater risk for having one. We will also share some tips on how you may be able to lower your risk of experiencing a stroke in the future. 

What is a stroke?

Stroke is a condition that occurs where the blood supply to parts of your brain is interrupted, or you have a reduced flow of oxygenated blood. And when the brain is deprived of oxygen, it can’t function properly.

There are two general types of strokes, and they’re categorized by how the blood supply in the brain is interrupted.

What are the risk factors for developing strokes?

There are many risk factors that can increase the chances of stroke, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes mellitus (sugar in your body) and cholesterol. Other risk factors include car accidents, falls, and other traumatic injuries to the head.

What are the two main types of stroke?

Here are the two main categories of stroke:

Ischemic stroke

This type can be caused by plaque buildup in the arteries that lead to part of your brain.

Ischemic stroke

The most common cause for this type is high cholesterol and other lipid issues like diabetes, obesity and smoking.

Hemorrhagic stroke

The second major form of stroke occurs when there’s bleeding into or around one hemisphere (half) or both hemispheres (both sides). This may happen as a result of an accident with trauma (such as car accidents, falls, etc.), but also due to ruptured vascular malformations called AVMs.

Hemorrhagic stroke

Hemorrhaging causes temporary symptoms for only a few minutes but may have lasting effects if not treated in time.

What is a transient ischemic stroke?

A transient ischemic stroke, also called a mini-stroke, or TIA, causes temporary symptoms like that of a stroke. It usually lasts only for a few minutes and has no long term side-effects that occur after treatment.

What are the warning signs of a stroke?

The Canadian Stroke Association summarized stroke symptoms using the acronym F-A-S-T to remind everyone to act fast when any of the following symptoms are observed:

F - Face Drooping

A - Arm Weakness

S - Speech Difficulty (Slow, slurred or difficult to understand)

T - Time

The most common symptom is face drooping in the sense that one side of their mouth will go down slowly while other facial muscles stay tense. Other symptoms include arm weakness, so it becomes hard for them to lift up an object with both hands; speech difficulty as new words don’t come out right, or old ones are forgotten. The last word is time because if your loved one has been experiencing these symptoms and lasting longer than five minutes, it is paramount to call 911 immediately.

Remember FAST, and you can help your loved one tremendously.

How is stroke different from a heart attack?

Stroke is frequently confused with a heart attack. But there is a key difference.

A heart attack, also termed myocardial infarction (MI), happens when the flow of oxygenated blood to your heart muscle stops as a result of an obstruction in one or more coronary arteries.

Strokes, on the other hand, occurs when an artery in your brain suddenly bursts or ruptures. One symptom of stroke can be sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg on one side of the body or difficulty speaking and understanding what others are saying (mild). Another symptom is weakness/loss of coordination on one side of the body(moderate) and loss of sensation around the mouth (severe) - this is called “the signature sign” for stroke.

Both stroke and heart attack are considered a medical emergency and need immediate treatment.

Get your blood pressure checked regularly. 

If you are worried about your stroke risks, having your blood pressure checked regularly is an excellent place to start. A systolic blood pressure of 140 or higher and/or diastolic blood pressure of 90 or higher means that you have hypertension.

There are many ways in which high blood pressure can lead to an increased chance of having a stroke: it can cause injury on the inside lining of our arterial wall, thicken artery walls, raise harmful cholesterol levels and reduce good cholesterol levels, among other things. Getting your BP checked as often as possible will help keep track if anything changes with it over time - putting you closer towards living healthier lives together!

The Stroke Association urges Canadians to learn more about strokes and to understand how to reduce the risk of having one. They offer a wealth of information on their website:

Avoid smoking.

Quit smoking or chewing tobacco, especially if you are aged 40 and above. Smoking and tobacco use increases the risk of having a stroke.

It constricts the blood vessels, which can lead to blockages and elevated blood pressure. This is due to nicotine narrowing arteries in the brain by up to 80%.

Drink lots of water.

Water. We’ve been advised a lot about the benefits of drinking water and how it’s good for us. Did you know that the brain and heart contain a large amount of water? Well, you do now! In fact, research says that the brain is 75% water, and the heart contains about 70%. Water also helps in flushing out harmful substances or toxins from the body, and it is essential to brain function.

The Stroke Association urges Canadians to learn more about strokes and to understand how to reduce the risk of having one. They offer a wealth of information on their website:

Reduce your alcohol intake.

Limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

Too much alcohol intake increases the risk of stroke. Research says that for every drink, the risk of stroke increases by 12%.

For people who are prone to having a stroke and those at higher risk due to other cardiovascular issues such as diabetes or high cholesterol, it is recommended that they avoid alcohol completely.

People with these conditions need to reduce not only their overall caloric intake but also limit sugar-sweetened beverages.

These recommendations are given for many reasons; one may be that alcohol can cause stroke or increase your risk of it by increasing blood pressure and weakening the walls of your arteries. Alcohol also interferes with clotting and slows down the production of a protein called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). This causes clots to form more quickly in the small vessels around your brain.

Eat a healthy diet.

The type of healthy diet you choose is crucial for reducing your risk of stroke. This means that if we want to be at less risk for strokes, then we need to start eating more vegetables and fruits – not just fruit juice!

Vegetables and fruits help reduce stroke risk by lowering the levels of homocysteine in our blood. According to research, homocysteine is a compound that can affect the integrity of arteries, make them more prone to clotting, and increase the risk of stroke.

Furthermore, studies have found that eating foods rich in potassium, such as fruits and vegetables, also helps reduce strokes. Foods containing high potassium levels, such as bananas, can help keep your blood pressure down, which lowers the risks for stroke and other heart-related issues like coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure.

Exercise regularly to reduce the risk of stroke.

A healthy diet, adequate water intake, and cessation of smoking and drinking would work best if also paired with regular exercise.

Exercise is a vital component of an overall healthy lifestyle that reduces the risk of stroke. A study in 2012 found that men who exercised regularly had significantly lower risks for having high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, which are both known to contribute to stroke. Regular exercise can also be effective as a treatment after strokes have occurred. It has been shown to reduce rates of depression among people with chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, leading some researchers to believe it may be able to improve brain function following a stroke condition.

Watch your weight.

Studies show that being obese is one of the leading risk factors for stroke. One study, in particular, found that an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and high blood pressure were three major causes of strokes among adults. Even if you don’t have all three in your life, it’s worth taking steps to reduce weight as much as possible.

Further studies show that obesity increases the risk of having a stroke due to the high levels of lipids and bad cholesterol in the bloodstream, which can lead to clots.

Clinical studies have found that, with every increase in BMI, the risk of having a stroke increases as well. In fact, those who are obese (BMI more than 30) were three times more prone to experience a stroke and two times more likely to die from it when compared with people within normal weight ranges (<25).

Limit the amount of sodium or salt in your diet.

A diet high in salt can increase your risk for stroke by up to 20%. How? Well, a study says that salt can increase your blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure. High blood pressure, in turn, puts stress on the blood vessels, which can lead to a stroke.

To reduce salt intake, try to avoid processed foods where possible. And if you need some flavour in your food, consider using pepper or herbs instead of adding sodium-rich table salt.

And don’t forget about other sources of hidden sodium: bread and pastries are often made with baking soda, which is a form of sodium carbonate. Canned vegetables also contain an excessive amount of added salts, so choose fresh veggies for better health!

Limit your intake of foods high in sugar.

If salt is a no-no for stroke, so is sugar. Sugar, like cholesterol, can accumulate in the blood vessel lining and cause them to harden. Hardening of blood vessels causes high blood pressure, and you know what happens next.

So, limit your intake of foods high in sugar and keep a healthy balance between salt and fluids.

Get enough sleep.

Now, how does getting adequate sleep or rest periods reduce the risk for stroke?

A previous study found that lower levels of “sleep quality” can predispose someone to higher stroke risk because of lower levels of leptin. Leptin is a hormone that helps the brain to regulate appetite and weight. Now, this goes back to our discussion regarding obesity.

A recent study also found that sleep deprivation increased stroke risk in a group of Chinese adults with high blood pressure by over 50%. Sleep-deprived people have higher levels of inflammation, which can cause strokes for those who are already at risk from other factors such as being overweight or smoking cigarettes.

The National Stroke Association recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours per night. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with getting an adequate amount of quality sleep, even for most healthy individuals. So, we better try to get a good night’s rest daily!

Keep your stress levels down.

Stress can increase blood pressure and increase the levels of sugar or fat levels in the blood. These events, in turn, can increase the risk of clots forming and travelling to the brain, which eventually can result in a stroke.

If you feel stressed, it can also give you a hard time following a healthy lifestyle, such as smoking or drinking alcohol. In addition, you may have a hard time sleeping because of the stress.

You can keep your stress levels down by taking care of yourself and doing things that make you happy or calm you down, such as listening to music or having fun with friends or loved ones.

Consider taking Omega-3 supplements.

You may have heard a couple of times how omega-3 is good for the heart. So, is it also good for the brain? How does it help in reducing stroke risks?

Omega-three is an essential fatty acid that the body cannot produce. It must be taken from food sources such as seafood, dairy products and eggs. The most essential omega-three for brain health are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

DHA can increase blood flow to your brain, while EPA can help reduce artery inflammation caused by plaque buildups or cholesterol buildup. Eating foods rich in Omega-three has been shown to lower stroke risks by up to 25%. So if you’re trying to make a lifestyle change with your diet, consider taking supplements containing Omega-Three!

Applied Science Nutrition’s omega-3 supplement

The fatty acids found in Omega-3 are essential nutrients that are important not just in preventing and managing heart disease but also in promoting brain health, weight loss, eye health, and skin health. One of the best sources for these essential fatty acids is fish oil.

Applied Science Nutrition Total Omega 3 Fish Oil comes from wild-caught fish such as Herring, Mackerel, Salmon, and other plant-based sources. This supplement is a balance of high potency Omega 3 (EPA, DHA) in pill form. It also contains Olive oil with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as another particular type of healthy fat called oleic acid, which helps target inflammation and improve heart health. In addition to Omega 3, EPA, and DHA, it is also a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins that aid heart function and support the body’s ability to ward off illness.

Stick with healthy living habits!

Strokes are unpredictable and can happen to anyone. The best way to reduce your risk of stroke is by making healthy lifestyle changes that include having a balanced diet and exercising regularly. These habits can help reduce your stroke risks. Also, you can try to maintain a healthy weight through dietary modifications (including reducing the amount of sugar we consume), getting enough sleep each night, limiting our intake of salty foods, and keeping stress levels down. 

Other healthy habits include abstaining from smoking or drinking alcohol excessively and taking care of any medical conditions you may have been diagnosed with (such as high blood pressure or diabetes).

Want to know more about stroke?

Here are some resources on strokes and stroke prevention:

Canada Stroke Foundation

Canada Stroke Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides support to stroke survivors and their caregivers.

It is a registered Canadian charity with tax-exempt status from the Canada Revenue Agency. They have been providing information, education and resources for Canadians since 1978, when they started as an outgrowth of the Ontario Stroke Program at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

The foundation also partners with various organizations, such as hospitals or other medical research centres across Canada that wish to provide patients with more localized care. In this way, it has helped build local capacity through knowledge transfer about best practices related to stroke prevention and management.

Heart & Stroke Canada

Heart & Stroke Canada is a national, volunteer-led organization that provides life-saving heart and stroke research funding to Canadian researchers.

Heart & Stroke Canada invests in cutting-edge science. This includes supporting both basic as well as clinical research projects across all scientific fields related to cardiovascular health, including brain sciences which are relevant for understanding how strokes happen. They also fund organizations such as Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto who provide specialized care and rehabilitation programs like their neurorehabilitation program specifically designed for people with neurological conditions such as a stroke or Parkinson’s disease.

Harvard Health article on How to Prevent Strokes

This article covers the basics of what you can do to reduce your risk for a stroke, including the importance of diet, exercise and stress management. It also provides information about how to recognize if someone is having an episode or showing signs that they may be at higher risk of developing one to get them help as soon as possible. The page includes a list of resources where people can find more detailed information about specific topics relating exclusively to strokes, such as smoking cessation programs, healthy eating plans, medications used preventively against hypertension or diabetes complications etc. In addition, there are links to articles like Brain Health.

Your local health centre

If you want to known more about stroke prevention methods, you should visit your local health centre to find out about the various services that may help you best manage your health.

Download Canadian Red Cross’ First Aid Application

Canadian Red Cross’ First Aid Application offers first aid steps for various medical emergencies, including stroke, in a convenient mobile format. The application is available free of charge on both Google Play and iTunes App Store. It has links to videos on how to react if you or someone is showing symptoms of a stroke. There’s also a question and answer portion included in the app, which lists frequently asked questions about stroke.

First Aid App - Canadian Red Cross

911 is your first go-to if you suspect a stroke, but it won’t hurt to learn about first aid for stroke.

Always follow your family doctor’s recommendation.

The tips we discussed above are for information purposes only. These tips are not intended to replace medical advice, and they should be followed with guidance and recommendation from your family doctor or professional healthcare.

The content on this blog should never be used as a substitute for proper diagnosis and treatment by qualified health professionals, including physicians, nurse practitioners or other health specialists.

This article does not have the intention of diagnosing, treating or curing any illness that you might have nor replacing the need for services from trained medical personnel such as doctors and nurses.

Please consult your family doctor before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle choices or if you are planning on taking medications or supplements that may affect your overall well-being.