Related Topics: Features, Heart Disease, strokes

How To Reduce Your Odds of a Stroke

Risks for heart attack and stroke increase at menopause, so here are ways to help.

AnnA Rushton

A stroke happens when blood stops flowing to part of your brain. The cells begin to die, and you may have damage to areas that control muscles, memory, and speech.

The results of a study in 2007 showed that women between the ages of 45 and 54 had a higher risk of having a stroke than men within the same age group.

The reasons for this are found in the increased risk factors that arise at this time and another recent research study in England found that the risk of ischaemic stroke (caused by a blockage) is more likely to be inherited by women than by men.

People with a family history of stroke who had experienced a stroke were two to three times more likely to be female than male, according to the study, so if you know you have some family risk, the following ways to reduce that will be helpful.

Watch Your Blood Pressure

If you have high blood pressure and you don’t manage it well, your chances of getting a stroke go up. Ideally, your blood pressure should be under 120 over 80.

High blood pressure is certainly common at menopause, so if yours is too high, talk to your doctor about ways to change your diet and get more exercise. If that’s not enough to control it, they may prescribe medication to help.

Break a Sweat

Exercise helps you get to or stay at a healthy weight and keep your blood pressure where it should be — two things that can lower your odds of having a stroke.

You’ll need to work out hard enough to break a sweat 5 days a week for about 30 minutes. Talk to your doctor first if you’re not in great health or haven’t been that active in a while before exercising. A number of surgeries now offer a free course at a local gym, so check if you are eligible.

Keep Stress in Check

Stress can make it more likely you’ll get a stroke, maybe because it causes inflammation in parts of your body. Unfortunately stress can also play havoc with your hormones too so so make it a priority to reduce it.

If you’re stressed there are many ways to reduce it that are simple and inexpensive. First get up and move around often, breathe deeply, and focus on one task at a time. Make your home and work area a calm space with plants and soft colours and have your favourite relaxing music to hand.

Aromatherapy massage is helpful for many as is the simple fact that talking about your stress to a friend, family member or therapist can definitely make a difference.

Lose Weight

This is another major factor at menopause as the pounds can creep on, but obesity and the health issues it can cause such as diabetes and high blood pressure will boost your chances of stroke.

You can lower the odds if you lose as few as 10 pounds. Try to keep your calorie count under 2,000 a day, and make exercise a regular thing.

Have a (Single) Drink

Your risk of stroke may go down if you have one drink a day, and red wine is associated with some heart health benefit in moderation.

But be careful: More than two, and it quickly shoots up. Heavy drinking can also lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes — all things that raise your odds of having a stroke.

Get Your Cholesterol Checked

High levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol and low levels of HDL “good” cholesterol can raise your chances of having plaque buildup in your arteries, which limits blood flow and can lead to a stroke.

Cutting down on saturated and trans fats can help lower your LDL, and checking your diet for healthy options will help too. If you want to boost your HDL then exercise can help.

Pay Attention to Your Heartbeat

Atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heart rhythm, makes you five times more likely to have a stroke. If you notice a racing or irregular heartbeat, see your doctor to find out what’s causing it.

If it’s AFib, they might be able to treat you with medicine that lowers your heart rate and cuts the odds you’ll get blood clots.

Manage Your Diabetes

This condition affects how your body uses glucose, an important source of energy for your brain and the cells that make up your muscles and tissues.

It can raise your odds of having a stroke, so it’s important to watch your blood sugar carefully and follow your doctor’s instructions.

Increase Fibre

The magic number here is 7: For every 7 grams of fibre you add to your daily diet, your stroke risk goes down by 7%.

You should get about 25 grams a day: six to eight servings of whole grains, or eight to 10 servings of vegetables.

Eat (a Little) Dark Chocolate

Flavonoids are plant-based chemicals in cocoa that have all kinds of health benefits. For example, they can help with inflammation, and that can relieve pressure on your heart.

Studies show a little dark chocolate a day helps prevent heart attacks and strokes in people with a higher chance of having heart disease.  Go for a high cocoa content of over 70% and try not to overdo it because chocolate has sugar and saturated fat that won’t help your weight.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking makes your blood more likely to clot, thickens and narrows your blood vessels, and leads to the buildup of plaque — all of which make you more likely to have a stroke.

Choose the Right Foods

A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, and whole grains can help lower your cholesterol. That means plaque is less likely to build up in your arteries and form clots.

It also can help protect you from other conditions that raise your odds of having a stroke, like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Maintain Medication

This sounds like an easy one, but a lot of people have a hard time with it. Take your medicine for blood pressure, diabetes, and heart health on time and as prescribed.

If you’re concerned about side effects, or your symptoms change, then talk to your doctor before skipping your medications or taking less than you’re supposed to.

Helpful information: 

The risks of a stroke are certainly increased at menopause, so if you know you are at risk take sensible precautions to reduce that.

Diet and exercise are important and so too is hormone balance as unopposed oestrogen (oestrogen dominance) may also be a factor.

10 Warning Signs Of A Stroke – And How To Minimise Risk

What Is Oestrogen Dominance?

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