5 ways to reduce your risk of stroke

One in five women and one in six men will have a stroke, but around 80 per cent of strokes can be prevented. So how can you cut your risk?

A stroke happens when blood and oxygen supply to the brain is cut off by a blood clot or the rupturing of a blood vessel.

There’s a misconception that this only happens as we get older.

But stroke also affects teenagers and children, and around 20 strokes a day happen to people of working age, says Stroke Foundation acting chief executive officer John De Rango.

“There will be more than 56,000 strokes in Australia this year – one every nine minutes,” says John.

Almost 1.9 million brain cells die every minute following a stroke, which is why it’s important to access medical treatment quickly.

“With the right treatment at the right time, many people are able to make a full recovery,” he says.

Facial or arm weakness and difficulty speaking are the most common signs of stroke, while others include dizziness, blurry or loss of vision and severe headache.

How to cut your risk of stroke

  1. Manage your blood pressure

High blood pressure is the key risk factor for stroke. The Heart Foundation says around a third of adults have high blood pressure and the number of strokes would almost be halved if high blood pressure was eliminated.

High blood pressure has no recognisable symptoms, so get checked by your doctor or pharmacist or at your nearest free digital health check station.

  1. Stay active

Spending most of your day and evening sitting down increases the risk of stroke.

Lack of exercise or physical activity usually leads to excess body fat, which increases blood pressure.

The Stroke Foundation recommends exercising at least 2.5 to 5 hours a week.

  1. Eat well

Eat a balanced diet including vegetables, fruit, grains, lean meats, chicken, fish and reduced fat milk and yoghurt.

Check how much sodium or salt is in foods, as salt increases blood pressure.

The Heart Foundation recommends adults have no more than 5g of salt or 2000mg of sodium a day – less than a teaspoon of salt.

  1. Think before you drink

Excess alcohol increases stroke risk by increasing blood pressure, obesity and irregular heartbeat.

The Stroke Foundation recommends no more than two standard alcoholic drinks for men, and no more than one drink a day for women.

  1. Quit smoking

Smokers are at double the risk of stroke than non-smokers because smoking raises blood pressure, but within a month of quitting blood pressure usually returns to normal.

National Stroke Week runs from September 3 to 9.