While you may know that strokes are a leading cause of death in the U.S., what you probably don't know is that most strokes can be prevented. That's because many of the risk factors that lead to strokes can be controlled, such as physical inactivity, poor diet, obesity, smoking, alcohol use and stress. But the best way to decrease you risk of stroke is by keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range.
"High blood pressure has been known to increase the incidence of heart failure, stroke, and heart attacks," said Atul Chugh, MD, a cardiologist at Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians in Crawfordsville and Indianapolis. Each one of those are major life-altering events, which we want to try to avoid at all costs. The way to really do that is to hit the high blood pressure as hard as we can and reduce that as much as possible. "
How High Blood Pressure Leads to Strokes
Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against the walls of your veins and arteries. When you have high blood pressure, called hypertension, that pressure is greater than normal. The result - Your artery walls become damaged over time, which can lead to:
- Narrowing of artery walls
- Developing an aneurysm (a section of the artery wall that balloons and can burst)
- Forming of blood clots
All of these developments can block, or drastically reduce, blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.
Ways to Lower Blood Pressure And Reduce Stroke Risk
Because high blood pressure can be so damaging, keeping your levels in check is the number one way to protect against a stroke. In fact, it can reduce your risk of having a stroke by 48 percent.
Make sure your doctor checks your blood pressure at least once a year during your annual physical exam. If your blood pressure is high, lifestyle changes can help reduce it. Simple changes include reducing your salt intake and limiting your alcohol consumption. Also, eating a healthy diet, exercising more and managing your weight can go a long way toward getting your blood pressure under control. Usually more difficult, tobacco cessation can have immense benefits, not only for preventing stroke, but for protecting against other diseases as well.
Learn more about the new blood pressure guidelines.
While high blood pressure may not cause noticeable symptoms, the damage is still being done. Don’t let it go. Talk to your doctor today about strategies and medications that can help you reduce your blood pressure levels to the normal range.
"After the lifestyle changes, we think about medications, and we have about 162 agents out in the market that can treat blood pressure," Dr. Chugh said. "The question is what's the magic formula for each of my patients? It's going to be different for each patient. "
Are You At Risk for Stroke?
Act now and protect yourself from stroke. Download our free stroke information guide today.
New technologies offer other stroke-prevention options for persons with atrial fibrillation.