While the risk of stroke increases with age, there are a variety of activities and eating habits that can help reduce the risk of stroke for seniors. Learn about stroke prevention measures seniors can take, as well as the signs you may be having a stroke and what you should do.
What Are the Signs of Stroke?
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts, depriving the brain of oxygen and nutrients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are a number of sudden signs and symptoms that someone may be suffering a stroke. Think F.A.S.T. to remember them and take action:
- F = face drooping
- A = arm weakness
- S = speech difficulty or confusion
- T = time to call 911
If you or anyone you know suddenly exhibits any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately, as rapid medical intervention is critical to improving treatment options and outcomes. Even if symptoms go away after a few minutes, they could indicate a transient ischemic attack or “mini-stroke,” which is also a serious condition that requires medical care.
How to Reduce the Risk of Stroke
While the increased possibility of stroke among older people may be frightening, stroke is not an inevitable consequence of aging. The American Stroke Association and many other medical organizations have identified what can trigger a stroke. Here are five measures that you or your loved ones can take to control these key stroke risk factors.
1. Lower Blood Pressure & Treat Other Related Health Conditions
Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the primary causes of stroke. Thankfully, it can be well managed through medication, diet, and monitoring. Know your blood pressure numbers and keep them low. Work with your doctor to treat other conditions known to be stroke risk factors, including elevated cholesterol (dyslipidemia), diabetes, atrial fibrillation or AFib (an irregular heartbeat), and carotid stenosis (narrowing of the arteries).
2. Be Active & Lose Weight
Being overweight or not getting enough physical activity can increase our risk for many health conditions, including stroke. Losing even a small amount of weight – as little as 5 to 10 pounds – can reduce your risk of stroke, and improve your general health and well-being. The American Heart Association recommends adults try to be active for at least 150 minutes each week.
3. Stroke Prevention Through Better Senior Nutrition
Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium (salt) can raise cholesterol levels and blood pressure, while diets high in calories can lead to obesity – all increasing your chance of suffering a stroke. But a well-balanced diet containing five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day may reduce your risk. Leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, apples, and pears may be particularly beneficial. Take a look at these diet and lifestyle recommendations that are easy to follow.
4. Reduce or Eliminate Drinking
Drinking alcohol can increase blood pressure, interfere with anti-stroke medications, and impair liver functions which regulate blood clotting – all of which can increase the likelihood of a stroke. If you drink – do it in moderation or quit drinking altogether, particularly if you’re in a high risk category due to other medical conditions, are over the age of 75, or have suffered a previous stroke.
5. Quit Smoking
If you’re a smoker, quitting is one of the key steps to help prevent a stroke. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damages the cardiovascular (heart and circulatory) and pulmonary (lung) systems, increasing the chance of a stroke.
Stroke is not inevitable, and these tips can help significantly reduce the risk of stroke for seniors. Always consult your doctor before making changes to your diet or activity levels, or modifying the prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking.
For more senior living tips, check out the Brightwater Senior Living blog.