by Sarah Stevenson
Though we still have far to go in our efforts to prevent stroke in seniors and older adults, a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition and exercise can significantly reduce stroke risk.
May brought us Stroke Awareness Month, and one of the areas in which we’ve seen significant progress is in the effort to educate the public on the symptoms of stroke. Federal programs such as the Million Hearts and the Know Stroke campaign have been instrumental in promoting the effective and rapid treatment of stroke (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality). At the same time, organizations like the National Stroke Association have helped people recognize the signs someone is having a stroke.
But one area in which we still have a ways to go is in prevention. With our fast-growing older population, stroke is expected to put an increasing strain on our health care system, and the cost to treat stroke is expected to double by 2030, according to a recent statement by the American Heart Association. The situation is definitely urgent.
How Can We Prevent Stroke?
There are some risk factors for stroke that we can’t controlone of them being older age. When we talk about stroke prevention, though, we are usually referring to what the National Stroke Association calls “controllable risk.” Several treatable diseases may increase stroke risk in ourselves and our senior loved ones: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, to name just a few. Medical treatment to address these issues means not just an improvement in overall health but also a reduction in the risk of stroke.
The other category of controllable risk consists of lifestyle factors. The American Heart Association lists several factors for stroke prevention it calls Life’s Simple 7:
- be active
- control cholesterol
- eat a healthy diet
- manage blood pressure
- maintain a healthy weight
- control blood sugar
- don’t smoke
- Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli
- Eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol
- Eat high-fiber foods, including whole grains, cereals, and beans
- Limit sodium intake to help lower blood pressure
- Eat lean meats and low-fat dairy
- Get enough folic acid, B6, and B12 to keep homocysteine levels in check
- For more information on senior diet, consult our senior nutrition resources.
A new study in the journal Stroke confirmed that even minor improvements in these areas were associated with major reductions in stroke risk. In other words, healthy exercise and dietary habits go far when it comes to preventing stroke incidence.
Stroke Prevention through Better Senior Nutrition
If you’re concerned with preventing stroke in your older loved ones, one great place to start is with senior nutrition. Improving dietary habits at home can reduce many of the health risk factors for stroke, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The CDC and National Stroke Association offer the following heart-healthy nutrition tips for reducing stroke risk: