Seven Simple Steps to Reducing Stroke Risk

Seven simple steps could dramatically pare down your risk of stroke.

Tucson Medical Center promotes Life’s Simple 7, by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

“They’re really very manageable,” said Molly Griffis, the stroke program coordinator for Tucson Medical Center. “I think if people make the commitment day by day, they are achievable. But to get started, they have to be aware of them and then make them part of their regular, everyday routine.”

Here’s a look at the seven:

1)  Don’t smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products. “I think people know the correlation between lung disease and smoking, but it is also the strongest risk factor for heart attack and stroke if coupled with hypertension,” Griffis said.

2)  Keep a healthy body weight. Keeping a body mass index less than 25 kg/m is a good aim, Griffis said, “but the main idea here is to eat well and keep moving.”

3)  Get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes or vigorous-intensity activity (or a combination) each week. “It can be as simple as working in 30 minutes of exercise on most days,” Griffis said. “Do some yoga, go swimming, take a bike ride, go on a hike, – whatever makes you happy. You don’t have to run a marathon or do the Tour de Tucson.”

4)  Eat a healthy diet consistent with current recommendations from the American Heart Association. “Shoppers should try to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store, and look for a variety of colors through fruits and vegetables, while picking up items such as fish and fiber-rich foods,” Griffis said. “Shop moderately from the inner aisles where the processed, canned, and packaged foods are since they typically contain extra sodium, fat, and sugar.”

5)  Keep total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dl, or LDL less than 100 mg/dl.

6)  Keep blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg. “uncontrolled High blood pressure is the strongest risk factor for both Ischemic and Hemorrhagic Strokes” Griffis said.

7)  Keep fasting blood glucose less than 100 mg/dl.  Diabetics have a 2-4 x higher risk of heart attack and stroke, so managing the illness is extremely important, Griffis said.

Medications that might be appropriate to consider:

  • Anti-platelet medicines, including Aspirin, keep platelets in the blood from sticking together and forming clots. Plavix and Aggrenox are also options.
  • Anti-clotting drugs, such as Warfarin, Pradaxa, and Xarelto may be needed to help ward off stroke in some patients, particularly those at high risk of clots with a medical history including Atrial Fibrillatin, Atrial Flutter, or with a past history of afflictions such as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
  • Frequently, doctors will prescribe cholesterol and lipid lowering drugs, such as a Statin, to lower cholesterol and lower the inflammation that is caused by the build-up of atherosclerosis in the blood vessels.
  • Finally, if you have high blood pressure, your doctor will prescribe medication to lower it. There are many different kinds of anti-hypertensive medications.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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