There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK per year. Yet most are preventable. These small steps will make a BIG difference
If you’re feeling fit and healthy you might think a stroke is the last thing that could happen to you.
But worryingly, a quarter of strokes happen to people aged 18-65 who feel perfectly healthy.
According to the Stroke Association, there are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK per year. That’s expected to increase by a whopping 59 per cent by 2035.
So how do you know if you’re at risk?
Claire Fincham, prevention manager at Stroke Association, says: ‘Around 90 per cent of strokes are preventable. You don’t need a total lifestyle overhaul. Just making small changes can reduce your risk drastically.’
Switch salt for herbs
One simple trick to reduce your stroke risk is to reduce your salt intake. Up to 75 per cent of the salt we eat is already in foods we buy such as bread, sausages and breakfast cereal. Too much salt can raise our blood pressure which is a major risk for stroke. However, by having no more than six grams a day (roughly a teaspoon) our risk is reduced. When shopping, always choose products with the lowest salt content. Likewise, when cooking, use herbs, spices, garlic or lemon juice for flavour instead of salt.
Ditch hidden sugars
We know sugar isn’t great for our waistline, but eating too much also increases our risk of stroke. Being overweight makes us over 20 per cent more likely to have a stroke and our risk increases by 64 per cent if we’re obese. Have no more than 30 grams of sugar a day — the equivalent of seven sugar cubes. This sounds like a lot, but a glass of Coke alone contains three. Check food labels and steer clear of things like ready-made pasta sauces, baked beans and granola that often contain added sugar.
Boost your fibre
Boosting your daily fibre intake and eating lots of fruit and vegetables can help reduce your stroke risk. In fact, eating five or more portions a day reduces your risk by up to 30 per cent. Aim to eat 30g of fibre every day to help keep blood sugar levels stable and reduce cholesterol levels. Again, it’s all about the simple changes. Choose brown pasta and rice instead of white and eat the peel on things like potatoes and apples.
Choose alcohol-free drinks
Research shows that drinking large amounts of alcohol can greatly increase your risk of having a stroke. In fact, once you start drinking more than two drinks a day, your risk rises sharply. Instead, why not try having a few alcohol-free days?
Manage underlying conditions
Make sure you’re aware of and managing any underlying health conditions. For example, having diabetes almost doubles your risk of a stroke, while if you have untreated atrial fibrillation (AF), your risk of a stroke is up to five times higher. If you have a condition that increases your risk, it’s vital that it’s well controlled and you take your medication regularly.
Set a movement timer
How long do you spend sitting each day? Whether you’re using a computer, watching TV or driving, too much sedentary behaviour can increase stroke risk. However, the good news is that being physically active helps to reduce your risk. While aerobic exercise is really good for reducing your stroke risk, even cleaning or walking around when you’re on the phone can help. Set a timer and every half hour, stand up and do a lap of your home. The more you move the better.
Keep blood pressure and cholesterol low
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are both major risk factors for stroke. In fact, high blood pressure is the biggest single risk factor. Unfortunately, high blood pressure and high cholesterol often have no symptoms so it’s important that you get them checked regularly.
Exercising regularly and cutting down on caffeine can reduce blood pressure, while eating less saturated fats, found in foods such as butter and cheese can help reduce your cholesterol.
Spot the signs of stroke
Stroke is a medical emergency, if you spot these signs, act FAST.
Face — Can the person smile?
Arms — Can they raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech — Is their speech slurred?
Time — If you see any of these signs, call 999.
Edited by Stephanie May