The evening news shares lots of great information about preventing cancer and heart disease.
Yet, the third leading cause of death does not get as much attention - until it strikes and devastates the patient and families.
Besides taking 130,000 lives each year, stroke also is the leading cause of disabilities (short and long-term) in the United States. More than 795,000 Americans suffer from strokes each year - with more than 75 percent occurring in people older than age 65.
Stroke survivors often require extensive care, rehabilitation and adaptation to physical and mental challenges.
Understanding the risks is the first step helping prevent strokes. High blood pressure, for example, is a precursor to strokes and is often hereditary. About two-thirds of people over age 65 suffer from hypertension (blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher).
Taking precautions through a healthier lifestyle is the second step. Managing high blood pressure, for example, reduces the chances of stroke almost 80 percent of the time, according to a study by Harvard University.
Here are six other ways to cut your risk of having a stroke, especially if you are older than age 65:
Smokers are four times more likely to have a stroke than non-smokers, according to the Center for Disease Control. In fact, smoking causes 80 percent of all chronic obstructive pulmonary disease deaths in the U.S. It is never too late to stop smoking. There are many helpful smoking cessation programs, including Quit Now Indiana.
Riding a stationary bicycle or taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes each day lowers risk of cardiovascular events between 30 and 50 percent. Exercise also is known to reduce blood pressure and help people lose weight - factors that also help prevent strokes.
Eat Sweet Potatoes
Raisins, bananas and tomato paste also help. Potassium is the key ingredient here. Prevention.com quotes studies saying a diet rich in potassium reduces stroke risk by 20 percent. Again, controlling blood pressure and weight plays a key role in stroke prevention. WebMD.com says that sticking to a healthy diet you could lower your odds of getting heart disease by 25 percent.
Get The Right Amount of Sleep
Sleep resets and heals our bodies. The right amount keeps your metabolism in good order. However, 10 hours or more of sleep each day increases stroke chances 63 percent, according to Harvard.
Add a Little Olive Oil
We know that olive oil helps reduces the risk of heart attacks. An observational study of more than 7,600 French adults age 65 and older found that those who regularly use olive oil cut their chance of stroke by just over 40 percent, according to Prevention.com.
Eat Some Chocolate
Mmmmm. Chocolate. Yes, you need to watch your diet. However, Harvard University cites several studies showing that people who eat chocolate more than once a week lower their risk of heart disease by almost 40 percent and stroke by about 30 percent. Dark chocolate, with at least 70 percent cacao, is the best.
You and your doctor should have a conversation about stroke prevention, especially if your family has a history of heart disease or strokes and/or you are age 65 or older. Don't let this silent killer go undetected.