Strokes usually happen when a person’s brain can’t get the oxygen it needs. They can also be prompted by sudden bleeding in the brain. When the brain can’t get oxygenated blood, brain cells die or suffer damage, and the parts of the body those brain cells control can go haywire.
This can result in paralysis, numbness, weakness, dementia, difficulty communicating, or trouble seeing. Strokes can be fatal.
There’s a lot people can do to reduce their risk of having a stroke: moving around, eating fresh foods, and breathing clean air are some of the best strategies.
High blood pressure is the main culprit
When pressure builds up in a person’s blood vessels, the extra stress on their arteries can make it challenging for the brain to get the oxygen-rich blood it needs. Over time, this can lead to a stroke.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to lower your blood pressure, like exercising regularly, eating healthy food, and breathing clean air.
Heavy drinking increases blood pressure, making strokes more likely
A major study published in The Lancet this week showed that the more we drink, the higher our blood pressure and risk of stroke.
The researchers analyzed health data from 500,000 Chinese men and over 10 years, and found that people who drank less had lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of stroke.
Overall, the researchers found that the risk of having a stroke increases by 35% for every four alcoholic drinks consumed per day.
Smokers double their risk of a stroke
The chemicals in tobacco can cause people’s arteries to narrow and can also damage the lining of their artery walls, prompting a spike in blood pressure.
When a smoker inhales, the action triggers an immediate blood-pressure spike, and smokers can develop long-lasting problems in their blood vessels over time.
“Smoking increases clot formation, thickens blood, and increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries,” according to the National Stroke Association.
Breathing polluted air can also prompt more strokes
A 2016 study of stroke patients in 188 countries around the world found that air pollution is a serious risk factor for these brain attacks, especially in middle- and low- income countries.
Around the globe, bad air – which can include household air pollution from cook-stoves and wood fires – accounts for almost a third of stroke-related disabilities.
Being overweight can make a stroke more likely, too
Carrying more fatty tissue around in the body makes it trickier for arteries to expand and tougher for blood to flow swiftly through the body to the brain. Health problems that normally go hand in hand with extra weight, like blood clots, narrowed arteries, and high cholesterol can all contribute to a person’s stroke risk.
Taking a look at your mid-section is a good way to assess where you stand in this regard: A large waist circumference is a better measure of stroke risk than a person’s height and weight.