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New guidelines for stroke prevention
With more than 700,000 Americans having strokes each year, doctors and
patients need to focus on stroke prevention. In light of this, the American
Heart Association (AHA) has issued a statement that details how to identify
and modify risk factors. Here are the AHA's tips, along with other general
guidelines for lowering stroke risk:
Blood pressure. You should get your blood pressure checked
at least every two years because many people with high blood pressure
don't even know they have it (130139 mm Hg systolic pressure over
8589 diastolic pressure is considered high-normal, while anything
above 140 over 90 is considered high). If you have high blood pressure,
the following lifestyle changes can help lower it:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Potassium-rich foods like bananas
and oranges may be especially good.
- Pass on salt. Salt makes the body hold onto water, and the heart
has to work harder to pump the extra fluid.
- Lose weight. The heavier you are, the harder your heart has to work
to pump blood to all parts of your body.
- Exercise. Even if you don't need to lose weight, exercise can reduce
high blood pressure and may even prevent it.
- Limit your alcohol. Having more than two alcoholic drinks a day significantly
increases your risk of high blood pressure.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of heart attack, as well
as many other diseases. And if you live with a smoker, make sure he
or she quenches his cravings outside. Exposure to secondhand smoke
can double your risk of stroke.
- Learn to relax. Various kinds of behavioral therapy, like biofeedback,
yoga, and tai chi may lower blood pressure.
These lifestyle changes can also help with other causes of stroke, like
atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and high cholesterol. If
the changes don't lower your blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe
a medication such as a diuretic or beta blocker.
Other conditions. The AHA recommends that patients with
diabetes and children with sickle cell disease closely monitor their
blood pressure with screenings every six months.
Non-modifiable risk factors. Black, Hispanic, Chinese,
and Japanese people are at increased risk for stroke compared to whites.
Men and postmenopausal women are also at higher risks than others. If
one of your parents had a stroke, you are at greater risk as well, either
because of genetics or shared lifestyle traits.
While you can't do anything about non-modifiable risk factors it's helpful
to know if you fall into a high-risk group so you can carefully monitor
July 2002 Update
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