Age is the single most important risk factor for stroke. As we get older, our arteries naturally become narrower and harder. They’re also more likely to become clogged with fatty materials (e.g., fats, cholesterol, waste products and the clot-making substance fibrin) known as atherosclerosis.
This buildup of plaque in the inner walls of the arteries can have a cascading effect on your health. Not only can it slow down blood flow or sometimes block it altogether, but it can also increase your risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). Hypertension is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease and stroke among U.S. adults over 60.
Managing blood pressure numbers is an important first step in learning how to prevent a stroke in older adults.
Stroke prevention in seniors
According to the American Heart Association, up to 80% of strokes can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes and working with your health care provider to control stroke risk factors. Keep reading to learn how managing these risk factors can contribute to stroke prevention in seniors:
Over time, the force and friction of high blood pressure damages the delicate tissues inside the arteries, which can cause them to narrow, rupture or leak. High blood pressure also increases your risk of blood clots in the arteries leading to the brain, which could potentially cause a stroke. While there is no cure, using medications as prescribed and making healthy lifestyle choices can enhance the quality of your life and reduce your risk of stroke and other diseases. You can also lower your blood pressure naturally by eating a well-balanced diet that’s low in salt, limiting alcoholic beverages, enjoying regular physical activity and managing stress.
- High cholesterol
High cholesterol can lead to fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes these deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a stroke or heart attack. A few changes in your diet can lower your cholesterol, improve your heart health and prevent a stroke. Start by reducing saturated fats (e.g., red meats, full-fat dairy, etc.), eliminating trans fats (baked goods, microwave popcorn, fried foods, frozen foods, etc.), eating more foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., fish, walnuts, soybeans, etc.), increasing fiber intake and adding whey protein to your meals.
Diabetes means you have too much sugar in your blood, which can increase your risk of stroke. The best way to avoid a diabetic stroke is to take your medications as prescribed by your doctor (even when you feel good), maintain a heart-healthy diet, exercise every day, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke or vape, limit alcoholic beverages and learn how to manage stress.
Being categorized as overweight increases your risk of stroke by 22%. If you are obese, that risk increases by 64% according to the World Stroke Organization. This is because carrying too much weight increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, all of which contribute to a higher risk of stroke. Taking steps to lose weight can minimize your risk of stroke. Talk to your doctor about starting a safe and effective weight loss program that will improve your health and lower your risk of stroke.
The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, and the nicotine makes your heartbeat faster, raising your blood pressure. This increases your risk of stroke. Smoking can also increase your risk of atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that is a risk factor for stroke. Talk to your doctor to find out which smoking cessation program is right for you.
Find out how Gulf Coast Health Care can be a valuable resource for you after suffering a stroke. We offer a range of specialized programs, including stroke rehabilitation, and will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan so you can regain function, independence and confidence.