To Prevent Stroke a Healthy Living Lifestyle Is Vital

The good news is that stroke deaths in the U.S. are on the decline... the bad news is that they are still the third leading cause of death (after cardiovascular disease and cancer) in this country. More work is needed to prevent stroke.

The American Heart Association is updating its guidelines on reducing the risk of stroke, and now suggests that by living a healthy lifestyle (no smoking, eating a low fat diet, exercising regularly and staying a healthy weight) you can reduce the risk of that first, devastating stroke by as much as 80%. Hard to argue with those numbers.

Once considered a problem of the elderly, experts are seeing a rise in the number of pediatric stroke cases in recent years. And while there are an estimated 6.4 million stroke survivors, 20% are so functionally impaired that they need constant care.

Prevention is a big part of the revised guidelines, and for the first time they talk about stroke as a continuum of related events instead of a single, isolated episode. Those related events include ischemic stroke, non-ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA), often considered a warning that a bigger stroke is on the way.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is your best bet, but there are other recommendations that you'll want to know about. You need to see your doctor, or visit the emergency room if you're in trouble, so that you have the chance to be identified and treated as necessary.

If you're diabetic and don't know it, if you have high blood pressure without symptoms or even atrial fibrillation, your doctor (or the one at the emergency room) gets a chance to see the problem and recommend screenings, referrals or preventative things you can do to help avoid that first stroke.

A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, causing an interruption of blood flow to part of the brain. Brain cells die as a result, and abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. This can be functions like speech, movement and even memory.

It's important that you tell your doctor as much as you can about your own family medical history. Sometimes genetic screenings for patients with conditions like Fabry's disease can be beneficial, though this type of screening is not recommended for the general public. Surgery on the carotid artery might benefit a few specific patients, but this too, isn't right for everyone. Taking aspirin, a long held stroke prevention tip, may benefit some people at high risk, but probably isn't worth it for the rest of us.

According to stroke experts the toll of the stroke on the person in terms of lifestyle and economics is staggering.

Stroke rates, as we mentioned, have gone down by more than a third between the years 1999 and 2006. What's helped is improvements in stroke treatment, as well as more awareness about the risks. Paying attention to high blood pressure and high cholesterol continue to be important, though now we see that a healthy living lifestyle may be the key to prevent stroke ruining your life.