How to prevent stroke

Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 1:20 p.m.

Q: My dad is 54 and just had a stroke! I'm turning 30 and don't want that to happen to me. What exactly causes a stroke, and how can I stay healthy?

A: These days, when 20 percent of strokes hit folks younger than 55, everyone needs to get on board with stroke prevention. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to protect yourself.

Stroke facts: There are three types of strokes. Ischemic stroke accounts for 87 percent of all events; it's caused by a blockage from a clot or plaque in a vessel that supplies blood to the brain. The remaining 13 percent are from hemorrhagic stroke — from a ruptured blood vessel — and transient ischemic attack, also called a ministroke, largely caused by a clot or platelet plug in your carotid artery or a clot in your heart, if you have atrial fibrillation.

Who's at risk? There are nonmodifiable genetic and age-related factors that increase the risk of stroke. But you should concentrate on your modifiable risk factors. They include hypertension, smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, elevated LDL and triglyceride levels, poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity, metabolic syndrome, alcohol and drug abuse and sleep apnea.

Your Stroke Busters: First, eliminate exposure to tobacco smoke, recreational drugs and excess alcohol (more than one glass of wine a day for women and two for men). Then, through diet and exercise, you can control high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, a-fib, diabetes and metabolic syndrome and even sleep apnea.

Start with 60 minutes of brisk walking daily, building up to your goal of 10,000 steps, and practice stress reduction through meditation. Avoid the Five Food Felons — added sugars and sugar syrups, any grain that's not 100 percent whole, most saturated fats and all trans fats — and up your fiber intake from vegetables and fruits. Take blood pressure medication if prescribed (it can cut stroke risk by 32 percent) and, if your doc OKs it, two baby aspirin a day with a half glass of warm water before and after. Start today, and your tomorrows will bring you a brighter future and a younger RealAge!

Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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