By Tyler Cook | MAEd Student, UAB Community Health & Human Services
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Stroke is also preventable and treatable. Being intentional about your daily activities can minimize or increase your risk of having a stroke. Knowing your family’s health history and engaging in health promoting activities are some of the few approaches to minimize your chances of having a stroke. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The brain controls our movements, stores, our memories, and is the source of our thoughts, emotions, and language. The brain also controls many functions of the body, like breathing and digestion (CDC, 2022). It is important to keep our brain and body healthy in order to reduce our risk for stroke.
A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when something blocks blood supply to a part of the brain or happens when a brain’s blood vessel bursts (CDC, 2022). The leading cause of strokes are high blood pressure, followed by high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and sickle cell disease. These conditions are commonly found in
individuals within the southern regions of the United States and is the main reason why stroke risk high in the South. According to the CDC (2022), “People with a family history of stroke are also likely to share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk. The chances for stroke can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating an unhealthy diet.” However, if those lifestyle
choices are poor choices, it can increase the chances of having a stroke. Those lifestyle choices including eating high in fat foods, lack of physical activity, alcoholism, and constant use of tobacco products.
Not only do unhealthy lifestyle choices contribute to stroke risk, but risk is also greater with older age, male sex, and certain racial/ethnic minority groups (i.e., African Americans, Latino Americans). Another major contributor to stroke risk is stress. Constant and increased stress can raise blood pressure and thusly increase risk for stroke. For these reasons, consider the following healthier lifestyle practices below and let’s lower our risk of stroke in the South.
Health Tips from the CDC:
- Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol.
- Limit salt (sodium) intake
- Keep a healthy weight in consultation with your doctor
- Be physically active, getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as a brisk walk, each week.
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men, 1 per day for women.
- Manage your medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease in consultation with your doctor.
- Work with your health care team, including health coach, pastor/spiritual advisor, counselor, etc.
- Let’s support our family, friends and neighbors in the adoption of the health tips above