Simple things that reduce stroke risk

By: Chioma Umeha

Studies show that that 20 per cent often die when they are attacked by stroke, while 40 per cent are at risk of being disabled with 25 per cent chance severely disabled. Confirming this, Dr. David Spence, director of the Stroke-Prevention Center at the Robarts Research Institute in Canada, said that one of approximately 600,000 Americans who have stroke dies. Spence also added that if you have stroke, then, “your chance of dying is 20 percent-but you have a 40 percent chance of being disabled and a 25 percent chance of being severely disabled.” 

An ischemic stroke—the kind that affects most men—occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked by arterial plaque that has broken loose and caused a blood clot. In fact, it is just like a heart attack, only instead of heart cells dying for lack of blood, brain cells are kicking off-thousands of brain cells. Perhaps paralyzing half of your body; or slurring your speech; or even plunging you into senility. But a “brain attack” is not inevitable. David Wiebers, a professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic and author of Stroke-Free for Life noted: “50 to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.”  Wiebers further observed that there are simple steps one can take from age 25 to 35 to prevent stroke. He said: “Making the simple choices at 25, 35, or 45 years of age can make an enormous difference in preventing stroke when you are in your 60s, 70s, or 80s.” 

Here are seven strategies you can use strike back at stroke. 

Loma Linda University researchers found that men who drank five or more 8-ounce glasses of water daily cut their stroke risk by 53 per cent compared with guys who drank fewer than three glasses. Water helps to thin the blood, which in turn makes it less likely to form clots, explained Dr. Jackie, the lead study author. But do not drink your extra water at once. “You need to drink water throughout the day to keep your blood thin, starting with a glass or two in the morning,” adds Dr. Chan. 

Drink less soda 
Unless it is the diet stuff; the Loma Linda University researchers also discovered that the men who drank large quantities of fluids other than water actually had a higher risk of stroke—46 per cent higher. One theory is that sugary drinks like soda draw water out of the bloodstream, thickening the blood. Another explanation may be the boost in triglycerides caused by sipping liquid sugar. Dr. Daniel Fisher, an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine observed that elevated levels of triglycerides – any level above 150 – is a risk factor for arterial disease. 

Avoid anxiety 
You may have just lowered your stroke risk. In a study published in the journal Stroke, researchers noted that of 2,100 men, the anxious guys were three times more likely to have a fatal ischemic stroke than the more serene men. Dr. Ernest Friedman, a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University said: “anxiety causes chronic overproduction of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s control of circulation.” Dr. Friedman added that counting to three—or reining in your racing mind in any other way—helps by stabilizing your levels of serotonin, the antidote to excess dopamine.  

Hold your breath 
You can do this when you are around a smoker. University of Auckland researchers found that people exposed to second-hand smoke are 82 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who never inhale. It seems that carbon monoxide promotes clot formation by interfering with nitric oxide, a biochemical that relaxes blood vessels. To get rid of every single bit of carbon monoxide after a night at the bar, you will have to breathe fresh air for about eight hours. But most of the carbon monoxide will be gone from your body in the first hour, according to Laurence Fechter, a professor of toxicology at the University of Oklahoma. So on your way home, make sure you roll down the car windows and start sucking in some clean air. 

Beat Homocysteine 
Research suggests that people with high blood levels of this amino acid are more likely to stroke out than those with low readings. Extra folate will help reduce the risk, but only for some people. “50 to 60 per cent will not respond with lower homocysteine,” said Dr. Seth J. Baum, medical director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute, a Harvard affiliate. Dr. Baum recommends 1,000 micrograms (mcg) of folate, plus 25 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B6, 1,000 mcg of B12, and 1,800 mg of the amino acid N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). “With folate, B6, B12, and NAC supplements, almost everyone will have normal homocysteine levels,” said Dr. Baum. 

Pick up an iron supplement 
Aerobic exercise is anti-stroke medicine. If you cannot run or cycle to save your life; then, lift. Dr. Jerry Judd Pryde, a physiatrist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles said: “Regular resistance training decreases blood pressure, elevates HDL cholesterol, lowers LDL cholesterol, and decreases the stickiness of the blood.” 

If you do not already weight-train, try the American Heart Association programme: 
Lift weights two or three times a week, targeting the major muscle groups. For each of the following, choose a weight you can lift eight to 12 times at most, and do one set to fatigue: bench press, shoulder press, lying triceps extension, biceps curl, seated row, lat pull down, crunch, squat, Romanian dead lift and calf raise.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 21,  2013.