Strokes are a leading cause of death and disability for people across the globe. These cardiovascular events occur when the blood supply to your brain becomes blocked or diminished, preventing the flow of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes of this phenomenon, your brain cells begin to die off, which is why a stroke is a medical emergency requiring immediate care.

Fortunately, deaths in the U.S. from stroke have declined in past decades, and there are proven ways to lower your risk. Here are a few options you can start with.

How to Lower the Risk of Stroke

Control Your Blood Pressure

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is often a precursor to stroke. Having elevated blood pressure strains your arteries, making them more susceptible to clogs. For this reason, controlling your blood pressure is considered the most important factor you can modify for a lower risk of stroke.

Your doctor can discuss personalized strategies for getting your blood pressure within a healthy range, or maintaining your levels if you’re already there. In many cases, lifestyle modifications such as reducing your salt intake, avoiding high-cholesterol foods, exercising regularly, and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can have positive effects on your blood pressure. With routine monitoring, your provider can determine whether these measures alone are sufficient, or if you might be a good candidate for blood pressure medications.

Avoid Smoking

Some sources claim that smoking can double your risk of stroke, and one 2009 study found that up to one-quarter of all strokes can be directly attributed to cigarettes. When you smoke, chemicals enter your lungs, where they’re absorbed into your bloodstream and can ultimately damage your blood vessels. Quitting will have a powerful impact on your overall health, especially in terms of stroke prevention: nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in your body drop within eight hours of your last cigarette. Within five years of quitting, you’ll have a much lower risk of stroke – about that of someone who has never smoked.

Lower Your Cholesterol

High cholesterol levels can lead to the buildup of plaques in your blood vessels. Again, this restricted blood flow can lead to serious cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke. Certain lifestyle factors, including a diet high in fatty foods, a sedentary lifestyle, and high alcohol intake, contribute to high cholesterol. Dietary and lifestyle changes can help get and keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range.

Keep an Eye on Your Blood Sugar

Like high cholesterol, having uncontrolled high blood sugar can also result in the formation of deposits in your blood vessels. People with diabetes are two times as likely to have a stroke as non-diabetics, but it’s still possible to control your risk by controlling your blood sugar. If you’re diabetic, continue following your doctor’s recommendations for managing the condition through glucose monitoring and medication.

Eat Well & Exercise Regularly

Eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly have compounding effects on your stroke risk. When combined with maintaining a healthy weight, moderate alcohol consumption, and not smoking, a healthy diet and regular exercise could reduce your stroke risk by as much as 80%. But the benefits extend even further: staying physically active and eating well also support healthy blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels, thereby further reducing your stroke risk.

Request an Appointment With Morgan Medical Center

While there’s a lot you can do to prevent strokes, it’s also helpful to know that expert help is nearby if you or a loved one should ever experience one. Morgan Medical Center participates in the Remote Evaluation for Acute Ischemic Stroke (REACH) program, which connects patients in rural communities with stroke specialists. Find out more about this specialty program here or by contacting us online.