According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. To put into perspective, every four minutes, an American dies of a stroke. Strokes are the leading cause of serious long-term disability and, while I don’t want to incite fear, the risk of a stroke should not be ignored. There are warning signs and natural methods for stroke prevention that you can start implementing today to reduce your risk of stroke – without unnecessary pharmaceuticals. But, first, what happens to the body during a stroke and why?
The brain must have access to oxygen at all times in order to function properly. Without a fresh supply of oxygen, cells within the brain begin to die. The way that oxygen reaches the brain is through the blood, so when blood vessels are blocked and blood cannot travel to the brain is when stroke occurs. There are various kinds of stroke and they affect different areas of the brain and lead to varying degrees of damage. Around 90% of strokes are ischemic strokes, they are, by far, the most common type of stroke. An ischemic stroke occurs when blood vessels in neck and/or brain become blocked. The primary causes for ischemic stroke are thrombosis (a clot forms in an artery in the brain or neck), embolism (a clot forms in another part of the body and travels to the brain), and stenosis (narrowing of an artery that cuts off blood supply to the brain). The rarer form of stroke is called a hemorrhagic stroke, when a blood vessel ruptures and leaks into the brain.
It is absolutely crucial that you take stroke warning signs seriously as the less time it takes to treat a stroke, the more likely recovery will be. Some of the most common signs of stroke include an extreme and unusual headache, slurred speech, abrupt weakness on one side of the body, sudden poor balance, abrupt decline in vision, paralysis on one side of the body, dizziness, inability to look at bright light, memory loss, confusion, difficulty swallowing and sudden numbness or tingling anywhere in the body. An easy-to-remember method for determining whether you or a loved one is having a stroke is the ‘FAST’ acronym:
Face: look at yourself in the mirror and try to smile. If one side of your face remains in flaccid paralysis, it likely means you are experiencing a stroke.
Arms: if you are unable to raise one of your arms, or when you do raise your arms, one of them droops, this is another warning sign.
Speech: slurred speech is a strong indicator of stroke.
Time: if any or all of these signs are observed, get to a hospital as fast as possible.
Natural Methods for Prevention
Luckily, according to the American Stroke Association, a whopping eighty percent of strokes are preventable. There are strategies that we can all be implementing, many of them daily, to ensure that we are limiting our stroke risk as much as possible.
- Stay on top of your blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke for both men and women. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure.
- Work on weight maintenance and healthy weight loss if needed. It can help to lower blood pressure and other stroke risk factors.
- Quit smoking. Smoking condenses the blood, which can lead to plaque buildup and eventually stroke.
- Limit your cholesterol intake. One of the easiest ways to do this is by transitioning to a more plant-based diet.
- Cut back on alcohol. Women who have one or more drinks per day and men who have two or more drinks per day have increased risks of stroke. Opt for a non-alcoholic cocktail or low sugar kombucha instead.
- Be sure that you are getting enough vitamin D. Research now indicates that vitamin D deficiency may be associated with a higher risk of stroke. If you are concerned that you may not be getting enough of the vital nutrient, I recommend starting on a supplement – my favorite is Pure Encapsulations.
While the idea of stroke is certainly a disconcerting thought, it really is comforting and should be motivating to know that most cases are fully preventable. As with many other health issues, a nutrient-dense and mostly plant-based diet, regular exercise, and refrain from certain harmful substances can do wonders for stroke prevention. The first step is simply committing to a healthy lifestyle. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you would like some stroke-prevention support. And, as always, please check with a doctor before starting any new supplements.