Stroke can happen to anyone at any time. Stroke is not just an older person’s disease. Risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes are happening at younger ages. Unfortunately, risk factors may not be recognized and treated in younger or middle-aged adults.
There are steps that can be taken, at any age, to lower the risk for stroke. Developed by the American Heart Association, Life’s Simple 7, is a simple and easy approach to making small changes that can make a big difference.
“People are more successful at making sustainable lifestyle changes if they start with one thing at a time and build on it. I like to say it is not about perfection, it is about improvement. For example, make a habit of packing a piece of fruit for a healthy afternoon snack to avoid making a trip to the candy machine,” says Lisa Thorp, BSN, RN, CDE, Great Plains QIN Quality Improvement Specialist.
Following are American Heart Association’s recommendations:
- Manage Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys which keeps you healthier longer. Learn how to manage your blood pressure.
- Control Cholesterol: High cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages. Learn how to lower your cholesterol.
- Reduce Blood Sugar: Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use for energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. Learn how to reduce your blood sugar.
- Get Active: Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life. Learn how to get active.
- Eat Better: A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy – for life! Learn how to eat better.
- Lose Weight: When you shed extra fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. You give yourself the gift of active living, you lower your blood pressure and you help yourself feel better, too! Learn how to lose weight.
- Stop Smoking: Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Learn how to quit smoking.
Thorp added, “It is good to have a focus. A lot of people don’t realize that having diabetes can greatly increase their risk of having a stroke. A person could start with focusing on managing blood sugar. By working with your doctor to find small ways to improve blood sugar, you not only will feel better, but you will have reduced the risk for having a stroke or heart attack.”
During National Stroke Awareness Month this May, CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention is focusing on increasing awareness among adults ages 35 to 64 of stroke risk factors, signs, and symptoms. Join the movement to prevent death and disability from strokes across the Great Plains QIN region.