Everyday habits that can reduce your risk of stroke

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A stroke is one of the leading causes of disability in adults. There are two kinds - hemorrhagic (a brain bleed) and ischemic (a blood clot) - that are triggered by different things. Some factors can't be controlled, like age, family history, gender and race, but others can be. You can't turn back time or change who you are, but you can practice these everyday habits that can reduce your risk of stroke.


Eat healthy

Eating a healthy diet is huge when it comes to stroke prevention. Choose low-fat, low-salt foods, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Some studies say bananas, oranges, avocado, cheese and yogurt may significantly lower your risk of stroke, but there's a lot more to choose from. To get started, check out these 50 foods that are good for your heart.


Drop pounds if necessary

Obesity increases your risk of having a stroke. The ideal BMI is 25 and below for adults, but you should consult a doctor before settling on a personal goal. The higher the BMI, the higher the risk for heart disease, elevated blood pressure, diabetes, gallstones, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and cancer.


Control your blood pressure

High blood pressure can weaken your vessel walls, causing them to rupture and leak blood into your brain. In other cases, they can narrow your vessels and block blood flow to the brain via clot. If you need to make a change, consider incorporating these foods that will lower your blood pressure into your diet.


Exercise more

Exercise can help you lose weight and lower your blood pressure. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or take a walk around your neighborhood until you're breathing hard but are still able to talk. Aim to exercise at a moderate intensity five times a week or more. If you need to get started, try some low-impact workouts that still break a sweat.


Drink in moderation

Abstaining from alcohol is ideal, but if you like to indulge, do it in moderation. One drink is safe, but two or more per day can raise your blood pressure drastically and increase your risk of stroke. Portion sizes vary by alcohol type. A standard pour of wine is 5 ounces, beer is 12 ounces and liquor is 1.5 ounces. Which is best? Red wine, because it contains resveratrol, which protects the heart and brain.


Don't use drugs

Cocaine, methamphetamine and other stimulants increase your blood pressure, which can damage vessel walls or form blood clots and cause a stroke.


Treat atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a type of irregular heartbeat that can lead to the formation of blood clots in the heart, which could travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Symptoms of atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, include palpitations, shortness of breath and chest pain. If you've experienced any of the aforementioned indicators, see a doctor for help.


Treat diabetes

High blood sugar damages blood vessels, making it easier for clots to form. To lower your blood sugar, exercise, eat more fiber, reduce your intake of carbs, hydrate, manage stress, get enough sleep and implement a diet of foods with a low glycemic index. Treat diabetes if you have it. Your doctor can help figure out what's best for you.


Keep your cholesterol levels in the normal range

High cholesterol can block blood flow in the arteries, meaning your brain won't get the oxygen it needs to function properly. High cholesterol also increases your risk for heart disease and atherosclerosis. Here are some foods you can eat to lower your levels.


Quit smoking

Smoking thickens your blood and makes it sticky, damages the cells lining your blood vessels and forms an excessive amount of plaque buildup in your arteries. In addition to hurting yourself by lighting up, you're hurting those around you. Secondhand smoke can increase the risk of stroke in others by 20 to 30 percent, and each year 8,000 people die from strokes caused by inhaling the toxins others exhale. Though it's typically a challenging feat, it's vital that you quit smoking. Now that you know what habits to keep (or kick), it's important you also know to look out for these unexpected signs of an unhealthy heart.

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