Stroke is the third biggest killer in the United States. Nearly 800,000 people suffer a stroke every year, and the consequences can be dire, with 144,000 people dying from the condition annually and many more suffering serious disabilities and other health issues as a result of stroke.
Strokes take place when the flow of blood to the brain is interrupted or when a blood vessel in the brain either leaks or bursts. It is important if you want to avoid becoming a stroke victim, that you know the risk factors that could make you vulnerable.
Here are the main things that could put you at risk of a stroke:
Eating Lots of Fatty Foods
Eating lots of fried, fatty foods and red meat doesn’t only increase your chances of a heart attack, it can be a factor in causing strokes too. According to the American Stroke Association, researchers have found that women who are postmenopausal and who eat a diet high in fat, are 40 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who typically eat a low-fat diet. Trans fats, in particular, are thought to increase the risk of stroke, and they are found in a huge number of processed foods like chips, pastries, cookies and crackers.
If you want to cut your risk of stroke, therefore, you must clean up your diet, avoid processed foods and according to some researchers, eat a Mediterranean diet, which is high in vegetables, olive oil, whole grains fish, and seeds, with only small amounts of red meat and sweet treats.
A study carried out by an Israeli university found that men who were married by the time they reached middle age were 64 percent less likely to die of a stroke within the following 34 years than those who were single, taking into account other risk factors. So, if you’re still single, you might want to think about tying the knot if you want to avoid a serious stroke!
Atrial Fibrillation is a condition in which the heart beats at irregular intervals. It is a sign that your heart is not pumping at optimum levels as it should. You can hear it at AbbottEP.com if you are worried it could be something you suffer from. Because atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots in the heart, they can increase your risk of stroke, which is why, if you are experiencing any of the tell-tale signs of afib, such as palpitations, you should get yourself checked out immediately.
University of Texas researchers reported that older people who were more positive in mood, attitude and outlook were less likely to suffer from a stroke and even a small increase in the happiness levels could make the distance. In fact, for every step further up the happiness scale men got, their risk of stroke would drop by 41 percent, while women experienced an 18 percent drop for each step up the scale they moved.
So, try your best to be happy and think positively to cut your risk of stroke. If this is something that is difficult, do your best to do the things happy people are more likely to do, such as exercising, eating well and socializing, as well as seeking medical care, and you could stave off a stroke too.
Obesity is a risk factor in so many illnesses and diseases, and stroke is no exception. You can find out more about obesity at CDC.Gov, and it might be wise to do so because researchers at the University of Minnesota who followed 13,000 American citizens for a period of 19 years discovered that the risk of stroke for obese people with a body mass index in the highest bracket, was between 1.43 and 2.12 times higher than those with a BMI in the lowest bracket. Obesity puts such a strain on the system and caused illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure that having a stroke when you’re so heavy is very likely as you age. Do something about it now, and you will dramatically cut your risk level.
According to the American Heart Association, smoking will double your risk of having a stroke, but if you quit smoking, even if you’ve been a heavy smoker for many years, you can cut your risk back to that of the average non-smoker simply by giving up. In fact, one study found that within five years of giving up there was no difference in the rate of strokes experienced by non-smokers and ex-smokers, which has to be an incentive to finally give up those cigarettes. Afterall, it won’t just be your heart that benefits – your whole body will get a boost and you’ll cut your risk of cancer too!
Sadly, some of the risk factors for stroke are out of your control. For example, if you are an African-American, your chances of having a stroke are twice that of your white friends and neighbors. Not only that, but black people have a much higher stroke-related death rate than whites. This could be partially explained by the fact that the black population is more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes than the general population.
Some studies have also found that women between the ages of 35 band 64 are nearly three times more likely to have a stroke than their male peers, perhaps because women tend to have more fat around the abdomen – a risk factor for stroke – than men of the same age who carry fat differently.
Being from the South
Sadly, being born and raised in the southeast of the United States, in places like Georgia, Arkansas, and Alabama gives you an increased risk of having a stroke when you’re older, even if you no longer live in the area.
One study published in the Journal of Neurology back in 2009 found that blacks who were born in the so-called southeastern ‘Stoke Belt’ were 22 percent more likely to have a stroke than the same demographic from other areas. Whites from the stroke belt were 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke. It is believed that this increased risk factor could be down to a range of things including bad diets, smoking and higher rates of obesity.
Although you can’t change genetic factors or the place you were born and raised, you can still work to cut your risk some by living a healthy lifestyle, monitoring your health, and avoiding too many vices.
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