By Patricia Sarmiento
A couple of years ago, my husband’s mom suffered a stroke. She survived and made a full recovery. We were very lucky. Then, about a year later, my husband was diagnosed with hypertension. And of course, the first thing I thought about was his mom’s stroke.
I immediately went into research mode. I wanted to find out everything I could about what we should be doing to decrease the chances of my husband having a stroke. Then, I put together a plan and we made it a family affair.
As it turns out, there are many lifestyle changes we can make—head to toe—that help with stroke prevention. All of the tips listed below are changes my family has made together in an effort to help my husband (and all of us!) curb our risk of having a stroke.
Make oral health a priority.
You’re probably thinking, What does brushing my teeth have to do with preventing a stroke? The short answer is…a lot. First, as the Illinois Department of Public Health notes, our mouths are “how we take in water and nutrients to sustain life.” So, without strong teeth, healthy gums, and all the other elements of good oral health, you won’t be able to eat the nutritious foods that prevent stroke or communicate to your doctor any stroke-related health concerns you might have.
Secondly, there is a growing body of research showing a connection between oral health and cardiovascular health. In its article on the 2015 California Dental Association meeting, DrBicuspid.com reports that the dental experts at the meeting discussed research that makes a connection between inflammation in the mouth caused by periodontal disease and the inflammation that can cause strokes and heart attacks. So, the next time you’re at the dentist talk to them about periodontal disease and what you can do to prevent it.
Eat super foods.
If you’re interested in learning more about how the processed foods we eat contribute to our stroke risk, this presentation on super foods and stroke prevention from the University of Arkansas is a great place to start. It explains the history of these processed foods and how they negatively affect our bodies. It goes on to explain how vitamin- and nutrient-rich super foods, such as blueberries, walnuts, green tea, and others—fuel us while also making us healthier. After my husband’s hypertension diagnosis, we began working these super foods into our daily diets.
This one probably comes as no surprise. In fact, probably 100 percent of articles on improving your health are going to tell you to exercise. But I think there is a wide gap between knowing you need to exercise and actually fitting it into your weekly routine. First, you have to find something you actually like doing. For me, it has always been swimming, which as this stroke prevention guide notes is a great cardio workout, and is easy on the joints. My husband does tag along with me every now and then, but in his quest to find a form of exercise he’d look forward to doing, he discovered indoor rock climbing. He was able to get a good deal at a facility close to our home, and now, he goes twice a week, in addition to jogging a couple of times a week.
Drink (a little).
I have to admit this is one life change my husband was happy to get on board with. Now, a few nights a week, once the kids are tucked in, we end the day with a glass of red wine (another super food!). As this article from Harvard Medical School explains, one drink a day can lower your stroke risk. But don’t over do it, the article also notes that drinking more heavily—two or more drinks per day—will actually increase your risk for having a stroke.
Don’t neglect mental health.
There are many changes we can make physically to decrease our chances of having a stroke. But we shouldn’t neglect our emotional and mental health in the process. This guide from the American Stroke Association points out that high stress can make us more at risk for a stroke. And as this Medical News Daily article points out, a recent study found that “patients who had a mental illness at any point in their life were twice as likely to have had a stroke or experienced heart disease than the general population.” If you’re stressed, anxious, and/or depressed, know that those factors deserve some attention, too.
For us, my husband’s diagnosis was a wake up call. He wasn’t living the healthiest life he could lead and finding out he had hypertension was the motivator he needed to clean up his act. In a way, it turned out to be a good thing because everyone in our family is living a healthier lifestyle because of it.
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Patricia Sarmiento loves blogging about health, wellness, fitness, and other health-related topics. A health and fitness fanatic, she makes living an active lifestyle a constant goal. She lives with her family in Maryland.