As we all know, lifestyle modification can lead to improvements in hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, glucose metabolism in diabetics, and more. But, did we know that these are, in turn, associated with decreased risk for cardiovascular disease and death, making lifestyle changes for heart attack and stroke prevention after 65 years is of utmost importance.
Let’s understand what may help in the prevention of hypertensive heart disease and chances of recurrent stroke in senior adults and/or reduction in subsequent chances of stroke.
“The same foods that help us keep our weight at a manageable level and prevent diabetes and heart disease can help prevent a stroke because heart health and stroke are closely linked,” said Geisinger vascular neurologist Ramin Zand, M.D.
For cardiovascular health and prevention of stroke, one should consume a healthy diet on daily basis. Intake of fruits, green vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils, and nuts; limited consumption of sweets, sweetened beverages, and red meats; and reduced sodium intake in encouraged enough in order to consume the healthy diet.
Lack of physical activity is a significant risk factor for stroke. Moderate to vigorous physical activity for primary stroke prevention helps lower blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for stroke. It also helps in decreasing LDL cholesterol, control diabetes, and maintaining accurate weight. Additionally, physical activity also helps in optimizing better metabolic functions of the body.
Easy and cost-effective methods include out-door walks, dancing, gardening, and other yard work, and yoga sessions. Ideally, 30 to 90 minutes a week is recommended for moderate exercise sessions.
Smoking cigarette is a major risk factor for all forms of stroke. Smokers are more prone to the risk of first ischemic stroke as compared to non-smokers. A study demonstrates a strong association between smoking and stroke risk, with current smokers having at least a two- to fourfold increased risk of stroke compared with lifelong nonsmokers or individuals who had quit smoking more than 10 years prior. As smoking results in an acute increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and arterial stiffness, it is especially dangerous for individuals with hypertension.
Thus, smoking cessation results in a considerable reduction in the risk of stroke, in fact reducing the risk of ischemic stroke to half.
Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with increased risk for hypertension, high blood pressure, unstable diabetes level, difficulty in maintaining a healthy weight, liver damage – all of which are major risk factors for stroke and cardiovascular disease. Apart from increasing the risk of having another stroke, alcohol can be harmful when one is on medicines and the body can be vulnerable to the negative effects that alcohol can have.
So, if one already has had a stroke, it is very important to think about the amount of alcohol consumption and whether that needs to be cut down. Is social drinking acceptable? How many times a week is considered relatively safe? Which drink? In what quantity? – All these can be answered or advised by the doctor with better accuracy.
Having said that, these or any of the lifestyle changes may bechallenging and often difficult to sustain because of the complex personal, environmental, and social factors. But, as they say, “where there is a will, there is a way”. Everything starts with self-determination.
Another common barrier to behavior change for patients is limited insight, knowledge, and awareness of how lifestyle factors contribute to risk for subsequent stroke. A detailed talk with the doctor may help the patient get more insights into the causes and effects of various habits and behavior.
If the patient does not see the need to change their lifestyle, then the lifestyle change is not possible. And the status quo is maintained.