The best way to treat a stroke is by preventing it from happening in the first place. It’s true that there are no certainties – strokes can hit anyone of any age or health profile – but the following good habits, which can be implemented at home on one’s own time, dramatically reduce the risk of stroke.
Quit smoking. Smoking doubles the risk of an ischemic stroke, the most common type. It quadruples the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke, the most serious type. It raises the blood pressure and accelerates the buildup of cholesterol plaque in the arteries; these blockages can wreak havoc on the steady blood supply the brain needs. Cigarettes are highly addictive; if it’s not possible to quit by willpower alone, talk to a doctor about programs or substances such as nicotine gum that may help.
Limit or eliminate alcohol. Alcohol can raise blood pressure, increasing the chance of stroke. Men should stick to a limit of two drinks per day, women are limited to one drink per day. These do not ‘accumulate’; a man who has 14 drinks every Saturday and nothing for the rest of the week is not doing himself any good.
Keep a healthy diet. Look for one high in fiber, low in saturated and trans fats. Eat colorful fruits and vegetables to take in a variety of vitamins and minerals. Be careful about salt intake – it directly raises blood pressure. The DASH diet is a well-established low sodium diet with a lot of helpful literature on how to follow it and still have tasty meals.
There are many books and online guides for following it; here’s a link with the basic information: Diet Information
Maintain a healthy weight. This is determined by body mass index – a healthy bmi is 18.5 to 24.9. Overweight is bmi of 25 to 29.9. Obesity is a bmi of 30 and above. The body mass index is a complex formula so the simplest way to calculate it is to ask a doctor or use an online calculator such as this one: BMI Calculator
Weight loss and weight maintenance are a challenge for many people. Consider joining a support group, signing up for premade meal delivery, or talking to a medical team about a healthy eating plan.
Exercise and physical activity. These directly lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels and conditioning the heart to work more efficiently. They also offer the indirect benefit of helping the person achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Structured programs such as jogging and weight lifting are the obvious options but even a brisk walk or vigorous gardening can help. The Surgeon General recommends adults get two and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise every week. That’s just a half hour every weekday, which is a modest goal to fit into a daily schedule. Consult a doctor or personal trainer with any questions on how to exercise safely.
Be proactive. Seek out information about stroke, about health risks, and about how to live a longer and healthier life. Pay attention to any bodily signals – mystery pains in the chest, headaches that won’t go away, a general feeling of weakness or a strange color to the skin. It’s easy to set one’s own health last in the list of daily priorities but these little physical hints may signal deeper problems. When in doubt, talk to a doctor.Advertisement