There is a popular adage that says, “prevention is better than cure.” This is a fact, especially with regards to stroke, where the more important thing to look at is a practical approach to preventing an occurrence, rather than allowing the condition to arise and then finding ways to properly treat and manage it.
Before looking at some practical preventive measures, it is important to first go back to the very basics. What exactly is stroke? After this question has been answered, appropriate preventive measures can then be looked at.
What Is Stroke?
Stroke, which is also popularly known as brain attack and less popularly known as CVI (Cerebrovascular Insult) or CVA (Cerebrovascular Accident), is simply a condition where, for one of two reasons, blood supply to the brain is prevented. The cells in the area of the brain that is deprived of blood and, by implication, the supply of oxygen, begin to die. This results in memory loss or loss of muscle control, which in turn affect the functions controlled by that area of the brain. Physical manifestations include memory loss, loss of speech or the complete or partial paralysis of the part of the body under the control of the affected part of the brain.
There are two types of stroke, determined by what caused the occurrence. When an attack is caused by a cessation of blood supply to a part of the brain as a result of a blood clot, it is said to be ischemic. If however, it is brought about by a brain aneurysm that burst or a leakage arising from a weakened blood vessel, it is said to be hemorrhagic.
Records have shown that about 80 percent of these attacks are preventable. With a brain attack occurring every 40 seconds and resulting in more than 750,000 people suffering from a new or repeat brain attack yearly, and a person dying from this condition every four minutes, it is little wonder that it is among the five top killers in the U.S, not to mention the leading cause of adult disability. More than ever before, there is a need for a practical approach to the prevention of strokes.
It is important to also note that there are some existing risk factors that can greatly increase the chances of a brain attack occurring. The presence of these risk factors does not mean that an individual must suffer a stroke. It simply means that they are at a greater risk of this occurring. In the same vein, the absence of these risk factors does not mean that a person cannot suffer from this condition. Some of the risk factors include the following:
- Gender: Men are more likely to suffer a brain attack. However, women are more likely to die from this condition. The reason for this is said to be that since men on average do not live as long as women, they suffer from this condition at a younger age, making them better able to withstand the attack. Women, on the other hand, suffer from the condition when they are older and less able to physically withstand the attack.
- Age: This condition is generally regarded as an age-related condition. Research has shown that the risk factor doubles with every additional decade added from the age of 55. This is not to say that younger people do not or cannot suffer from this condition. They do.
- Family history: Some families have a tendency to suffer strokes. This may be a result of the genetic transfer of risk factors like hypertension or diabetes.
- Race: In the U.S, African-Americans are more prone to having this condition than others.
The prevention of stroke is based on lifestyle adjustments. Some of these include having a healthy diet plan, exercising regularly, managing body weight, avoiding smoking and cutting down on alcohol intake. These are necessary to reduce the risk factors that lead to this condition. Preventive measures for preventing stroke are easy for everyone to understand, i.e. what exercise is, how to manage body weight, avoidance of smoking and reduction of alcohol intake. However, though a lot of people have heard about eating a healthy diet and even think they do, not many really understand what this means.
As a practical approach to the prevention of strokes, there are food types which help prevent an occurrence. Some of these foods include:
- Beans: Beans are rich in folate and are therefore great for the brain and the heart. Therefore, any other food rich in folate is also good for the prevention of strokes.
- Soy, oats and almonds: These are foods that have been proven to help in lowering LDL cholesterol levels.
- Fruits and vegetables: Most people are now learning that these foods are good for the body generally. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants.
- Bananas: Indeed, bananas and any food rich in potassium are great for preventing a brain attack. A study showed that a diet low in potassium resulted in an increase in the risk of having a brain attack.
- Milk (low-fat): Milk is rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium. These minerals are great for lowering blood pressure.
- Cornmeal and barley: These foods and others like them are rich in magnesium and have been shown to reduce the risk of having an attack.
- Fish: A lot of people already know that fish is a better option than red meat. Regularly eating fish will help reduce the risk of having this condition.
Simply put, eating the right kinds of food is a practical but great approach to preventing an occurrence of stroke. Add to this the other healthy lifestyles listed above and significant progress would have been made towards preventing an occurrence.
By Chimerenka Odimba
Readers Digest: 7 Foods to Prevent a Stroke
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing Stroke: Healthy Living
stroke.org: What is stroke?
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Brain Basics: Preventing Stroke
Photo Courtesy of Matt’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License