Stroke and heart disease are the most common health conditions threatening South Africans today. It also happens to be the most dangerous and life-threatening conditions globally.
Age, race, gender and family history can all play a significant part in making us more susceptible to stroke, but many simply ignore the symptoms when early detection could make all the difference. Some common symptoms of stroke are:
Strokes are dangerous, but there is one significant factor that you can control to protect yourself from suffering a stroke: your blood pressure.
Having high blood pressure or hypertension is the biggest contributing factor to increasing the risk of stroke in both men and women. In fact, an unmedicated and undiagnosed consistent high blood pressure can quadruple your risk of stroke.
The ideal blood pressure you should aim for is around 135/85. Ask your GP to check your blood pressure next time you visit the doctor.
Here are five tips to keep your blood pressure under control and reduce your risk of stroke:
1. Watch what you eat
One of the easiest things you can do to keep your blood pressure under control is to watch what you eat on a daily basis. Reduce the amount of salt you consume, preferably to around half a teaspoon per day. Avoid fast or premade food as their salt content is quite high and one you cannot control yourself.
Avoid eating high cholesterol foods like cheese or ice-cream, as high cholesterol can contribute to high blood pressure. Speak to your doctor about getting a cholesterol test and, if necessary, maintaining a balanced diet.
2. Lose weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to preventing stroke. A Body Mass Index (BMI) rating of more than 25 can significantly increase your chances of stroke. Reducing your weight by just a few kilograms immediately reduces your risk of stroke.
Losing weight is never as easy as it sounds, but try to eat no more than 1 500 to 2 000 calories per day, depending on your current BMI and activity levels. Use a modern fitness app on your phone or something like MyFitnessPal to track your daily calorie intake. If you have any concerns or need help, visit your doctor or a nutritionist.
3. Exercise more
Exercise not only lowers your blood pressure but helps you lose weight, sleep better and reduces overall stress levels. It’s one of the simplest and easiest ways you can reduce your risk of stroke, as well as many other health conditions.
But we all know that starting to exercise is hard. Here are a few tips to kick-start your exercise plan:
4. Drink in moderation
Alcohol in small doses has been shown to reduce your risk of stroke, but the moment you over-indulge to two or more drinks it can significantly increase it. Keep your alcohol intake to one drink per day.
5. Quit smoking
While smoking is bad for you in many different ways, it does have a direct impact on your blood pressure and heart in general. Smoking causes your blood to thicken and increases the amount of plaque build-up in your arteries. This build-up may cause a clot, leading to a blockage in your artery which is the cause of stroke or heart attack.
Quitting smoking isn’t always easy so speak to your doctor if you need help or medication.
If you’re concerned about your risk of stroke and want greater peace of mind, consider applying for GetSavvi Health insurance. Find out more today by simply filling out your details.