May is National Stroke Awareness Month and the goal of the month’s activities is to reduce the impact and the incidence of strokes. According to the National Institutes of Health, each year more than 700,000 Americans have strokes. The incidence of this health risk affects finances, relationships, mental health and community support resources. Focus on avoiding strokes should be ongoing and not simply the target of activities one month of the year. In counseling clients to set goals for a healthier lifestyle, my recommendations to improve well-being will help in reducing the risk of stroke.
You can take easy steps to reduce your risk of having a stroke. They include losing weight, lowering blood pressure, exercising more, drinking in moderation, and if you are a smoker, stopping. The tactics you can take are clearly linked. In losing weight you will want to adjust your diet, choosing plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods. Choose low-fat lean meats such as poultry, fish or beef.
Make sure the milk, cheese and yogurt items are low-fat. The key to losing weight is to limit your food intake so that you use more calories than you eat. To lose one pound you’ll need to burn 3500 calories or cut out 3500 calories that you typically eat. Get moving, add exercise. Make exercise a regular part of your daily routine. It is recommended that you exercise about 30 minutes a day five to six days a week. The addition of exercise will ramp up the number of calories your body burns. If carving out 30 minutes is tough for you to do, consider breaking it up into smaller, maybe 15-minute intervals. Walking is one of the easiest ways to get your body moving—invest in a pedometer or get an app for your smartphone that counts your steps each day.
Weight loss and exercise will help you bring that blood pressure down. Good eating habits and consuming less salt and more potassium-rich foods are beneficial in controlling blood pressure. Potassium rich foods include white beans, lentils, baked sweet and white potatoes, cantaloupe, bananas, halibut, and salmon. In tackling the blood pressure challenge, make sure you check-in with your health care to provider so that, if needed, medication to aid in lowering blood pressure can be considered.
Drinking alcohol can be protective and a risk factor in stroke prevention. Drinking in moderation such as 5-ounces of wine, 12-ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits daily is considered heart healthy and can aid in decreasing the risk of blood clots. Heavy drinking on the other hand is a risk factor which can increase the odds that you may have a stroke.
Smoking is a factor that is not a good lifestyle choice. It is a habit and if you are having a tough time in making the last puff, reach out to health care professionals for help. They can help with choosing smoking cessation aids, medication, if necessary, and finding community support groups to help snuff out this bad habit.
This is the time of year when so many folks are active and enjoying outdoor events and activities. You can use these activity moments to your advantage in adopting the good, better or best health lifestyle.
Take Away: Strokes are a health risk that should be taken seriously. By making changes to adopt a healthy lifestyle you can streamline your risk of being stricken with a stroke.
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