Everyone knows that a healthy diet and regular exercise lower your risk of stroke. But there are other, less-known ways to slash your risk. These strategies don’t have the same kind of research behind them as eating right and hitting the gym. But a growing body of evidence shows they can reduce your risk. They might seem like small steps, but they add up.
We spoke with cardiologists and researchers who specialize in the prevention of stroke to learn more. Here are their top tips for slashing your stroke risk:
Go to the dentist regularly
If you have gum disease, you have a higher chance of having a stroke. That’s because gum disease increases your levels of inflammatory markers in the blood. These markers have been linked to cardiovascular disease — including stroke.
The best way to avoid this risk is by seeing your dentist regularly to have your gums examined and cleaned. If you have a gum infection and let it go untreated, it can cause tooth loss and increase your risk for heart disease. Gum disease is one of the biggest risk factors for stroke, so make sure to visit the dentist at least once a year for a checkup. If you have gum disease, your dentist can treat it with antibiotics. And if you get treatment early, you might be able to avoid the increased risk of stroke.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight is one of the main risk factors for stroke. You can control your weight by eating right and exercising, which studies show can effectively lower your risk. The best solution, though, might be to get a wearable device — like a Fitbit or Apple Watch. There isn’t strong evidence that diet and exercise reduce the risk of stroke. But there is very strong evidence that devices that track your activity and diet can help you lose weight.
Studies show that people who are overweight are more likely to have a stroke, even if they don’t have any risk factors for stroke. So maintaining a healthy weight can help you stave off stroke, even if you don’t have any risk factors. And what’s more, maintaining a healthy weight can also help you reduce your risk of other diseases, like diabetes and heart disease.
Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night
When we sleep, our bodies repair themselves from the day’s stresses and strains. But if you’re not getting enough sleep, your body isn’t able to repair itself as effectively. Over time, this may increase your risk of stroke. Studies don’t show whether or not diet and exercise can lower your risk of stroke. But there is evidence that getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night can reduce your risk. Sleep apnea is a serious, sleep-related condition that can increase your risk of stroke.
If you think you might have sleep apnea, it’s worth seeing a doctor. They can help you identify and treat the condition and reduce your stroke risk.
Your body needs water to function properly. It helps to break down food, transport nutrients, and remove waste from your body. Water also helps regulate your body’s temperature and maintain proper blood pressure. Staying hydrated is important for good brain health, as well as your overall health.
Studies have shown that staying hydrated can reduce your risk of stroke. This can be especially helpful if you have high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for stroke. But drinking water isn’t just about your risk of stroke. It can also help prevent diabetes, kidney disease, and a number of other health issues.
Don’t smoke or use tobacco
There’s a lot of evidence that smoking increases your risk of stroke. But studies on whether or not diet and exercise reduce that risk are inconclusive. One thing we do know is that smoking tobacco damages your blood vessels and reduces the amount of blood that flows to your brain.
All of this is bad news if you’re at risk of having a stroke. Researchers believe that if you don’t smoke, you can reduce your risk of having a stroke. But if you do smoke, you can still reduce your risk of having a stroke by stopping. Stopping smoking reduces your risk of stroke within five years.
Exercise every day — and not just for your heart
A healthy diet and regular exercise are important for reducing your risk of stroke. But there’s also evidence that more specific exercises can help, too. There’s also evidence that less intense exercises, like walking, are just as effective as more intense ones, like running. There’s also no need to worry about which activities are best.
Studies show that any kind of exercise that gets you moving will help reduce your stroke risk. Exercise can also help you control your weight, improve your sleep quality, and reduce your risk of diabetes, among other benefits.
Take care of your brain, too
While you can’t physically change the size of your brain, there are some things you can do to keep your brain healthy and reduce your risk of stroke. A healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep hygiene can all help keep your brain healthy. But also try to avoid stress as much as you can.
A lot of research shows that stress can increase your risk of stroke, especially if you have high blood pressure. So try to keep a balanced life — with time for relaxation and things that bring you joy.
Strokes are the fourth most common cause of death in the United States. And they’re also one of the most preventable causes of death. You can slash your risk of having a stroke by following these tips.
They’ll help you take care of your body, so it can do what it’s meant to do. A stroke can be scary and life-changing. But you can reduce your risk by taking care of yourself. And if you do end up having a stroke, you can reduce your risk of lasting damage by knowing what to do.