I came across a handout about stroke prevention that my husband’s doctor handed me one day. It’s full of excellent advice I want to share with you, plus my two- cents worth of suggestions. (Italics are direct quotes from the handout.)
Sometimes strokes are called CVAs (Cardiovascular Accidents). No matter the mechanism — a clot that blocks blood supply to part of the brain, or a hemorrhage that diverts blood supply to brain cells — cell death occurs because it deprived the tissues of oxygen. Ischemia is cell death from oxygen starvation. Mini-strokes are called TIAs (trans ischemic accidents).
- Be active for at least 30 minutes most or all days.
I was never into sports, probably because I was, and remained, a klutz. I spend enough energy to get done what I want but stop there. As I get older, the “use it or lose it” reality rears its ugly head. I neutralized the sense that exercise takes up too much of my time, with the pleasure of company. My 89 (yes 89-year-old!) spry neighbor and I decided we would walk the indoor track at our town’s senior center 3 days a week. I know she will hold me to it. I also think strenuous housework or yard work fits the exercise bill.
- Do not smoke. Try not to be around others that do smoke.
- Eat healthy foods, such as fruits/vegetables. If you were put on a specific diet, follow it as told.
This is where my two cents will blossom into 10 cents. I agree, but it does not go far enough. How many fruits and vegetables a day should one eat to prevent a stroke? Should we avoid some foods or use them sparingly? Until now, medical training lacked nutrition education, so I believe medical advice remains too vague to be helpful.
Dr. Neil Bernard founded Physicians for Responsible Medicine ( https://www.pcrm.org/) (https://www.pcrm.org/) to eliminate using animals in experiments and to promote studies and practice about nutrition and health. That research showed the benefits of a whole food, plant based (and meatless and dairy less) diet for a healthier life. Here’s a link to a discussion about stroke prevention and diet at the Physicians for Responsible Medicine website. https://www.pcrm.org/news/exam-room-podcast/plants-or-meat-which-really-more-likely-cause-stroke.
- If you are a diabetic, follow diet plans and take your medication as prescribed.
Unmanaged diabetes and increased weight can lead to strokes. A whole food, plant based, (and not pigging out on cheese–which I used to do) goes far to manage diabetes, sometimes to the point of no longer needing insulin. This diet usually causes weight loss without needing to cut calories or portions. A plateful of veggies has minimal calories and no fat. The carbs it does have are “good” carbs, not refined sugars.
Still, many diabetic diets, good as they are, include meat and dairy. If whole food, plant based is not for you, stick to the diabetic diet proscribed for you.
- Keep cholesterol levels under control with diet and, if needed, medication. Look for foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and are high in fiber.
Again, veggies fit the bill and are full of fiber and many lower cholesterol.
- If you have high blood pressure, follow (your) diet plan, and take medications as prescribed.
As you increase exercise and eat more whole grains, veggies, fruits, legumes, your blood pressure may begin to lower. Under no circumstances, should you stop or decrease your blood pressure medication without first consulting your doctor.
- Keep a healthy weight. Eat foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
- Do not take drugs.
- Avoid birth control pills, if applicable. If this applies, talk to your doctor about the risks of taking them.
- Talk to your doctor if you have sleep problems (sleep apnea).
- Take all medications as prescribed by your doctor. You may be told to take aspirin or a prescription blood thinner. Take this only as directed by your doctor.
I recently heard a cardiologist dispute the benefits of aspirin. It may be time to ask your doctor about the latest research about aspirin to prevent strokes. Although your doctor reviews your medications at every visit, how many times has she revisited your need for all of them? You could be on a medication that is no longer appropriate for you.
GET HELP RIGHT AWAY IF YOU EXPERIENCE “FAST”
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty or understanding others
- Time to call 911
- Also, if you have confusion, dizziness, lose balance, clumsy, trouble walking, intense headache without an apparent cause, vision trouble, new chest pain, irregular heartbeat, droopy face of eyelid, numbness in face/arm or leg
- If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.