Stroke: How to test if you are at risk and how to reduce the chance of having a stroke

Stroke: How to test if you are at risk and how to reduce the chance of having a stroke

Strokes happen when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. They can lead to death, and in cases of survival can leave victims with long-term brain injuries. Strokes usually occur due to damage to the blood vessels and the build-up of cholesterol-based plaques in the blood vessel lining, or blockage from a blood clot. They can also occur due to a rupture of blood vessels in the brain. This is known as a haemorrhagic stroke. While there’s no way to completely prevent yourself from having a stroke, it is possible to lower your risk. This can done by making some simple lifestyle changes and doing some tests to assess if you are at risk.

According to Dr Antony Malloy at Scout Health, the main risk factors for development of a stroke can be tracked by testing your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well as testing for diabetes.

This because having high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes all increase the risk of having a stroke.

Cholesterol and diabetes can both be screened and tracked through a simple blood test, which you can have done at your GP surgery.

Blood pressure can be watched by using a blood pressure monitor, which you can use at your GP surgery or purchase for use at home.

“We suggest these markers be checked on at least an annual basis so early problems can be detected and prevention strategies put in place to reduce the longer-term risk,” said Dr Malloy.

“It may be appropriate for these checks to be done more regularly for some higher risk individuals.”

Dr Malloy lists four main ways to reduce your risk of having a stroke:

Stay on top of your cholesterol

Reducing LDL cholesterol (the bad type) and increasing HDL cholesterol (the good type), can help prevent plaque build-up.

LDL cholesterol is prone to accumulating in the lining of blood vessels, which can lead to plaque build-up.

On the contrary, HDL cholesterol scavenges for cholesterol in the blood stream and carries it back to the liver and away from where it may be harmful.

Dietary changes can improve the balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Foods associated with a lower LDL and higher HDL include olive oil, beans and legumes, whole grains, high-fibre fruits, oily fish, nuts and seeds.

Keep control of your blood pressure

High blood pressure can cause damage to the blood vessels, which can lead to a stroke.

An unhealthy diet, particularly one which is high in salt, and unhealthy lifestyle can cause high blood pressure, as can stress.

So follow a healthy, balanced diet that is low in salt, exercise regularly and try to minimise stress in order to keep blood pressure healthy and reduce the risk of having a stroke.

Stop smoking

Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for development of stroke and heart attacks.

This is because the “toxic combination of heat and chemicals” in cigarettes creates a “dangerous inflammatory state” in the blood vessels.

Stay active

Exercising regularly can help to lower the risk of having a stroke by improving blood pressure and cholesterol, while reducing the risk of developing diabetes.

Published at Sat, 16 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000