Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death and the primary cause of long-term disability in the United States. Millions of people are affected by the devastating effects of a stroke; however, almost 80% of them are preventable. As seniors age, they become more susceptible to having a stroke. In fact, The National Institute says that nearly 75% of all strokes occur in people over 65 years old. Here are some tips to prevent strokes in seniors.
What is a stroke? How Seniors Can Help Prevent Strokes As They Age?
A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood supply in the brain, also known as a “brain attack.” There are 3 types of strokes.
- Ischemic -The most common type of stroke. It’s caused by a clot within an artery leading to the brain.
- Intracerebral Hemorrhage- This type of stroke is caused by a sudden rupture of an artery inside the brain, causing blood to be released into the brain.
- Subarachnoid Hemorrhage– This type of stroke is caused by a sudden rupture of an artery. But instead of blood filling up inside the brain like the Intracerebral Hemorrhage, blood fills up the space around the brain.
What are the signs of a stroke?
While there are many signs of a stroke, The Stroke Association has created an acronym F.A.S.T. to help people remember the most common warning signs.
- F: Face drooping or numbness of one side of the face
- A: Arm weakness or numbness
- S: Speech difficulty (a person’s speech is slurred or completely gone)
- T: Time to call 9-1-1 if any of the symptoms listed are present
How Seniors Can Help Prevent Strokes
Strokes can be very devastating to so many seniors and their families. Seniors can be very susceptible to these strokes due to their age; therefore, seniors should be informed about them. Below are some tips on how seniors can help prevent strokes as they age.
1. Lower Blood Pressure
Having high blood pressure is one of the largest risks for a senior having a stroke. In fact, having high blood pressure can double, even quadruple, a senior’s chances of having a stroke as they age. Monitoring and treating high blood pressure can be one of the largest differences for seniors’ vascular health. The ideal goal is to maintain a blood pressure level of 120/80 – 140/90 according to doctors. Some ways to achieve these blood pressure levels are:
- Reduce salt intake to about half a teaspoon a day
- Stay away from high-cholesterol foods like burgers, cheese, and ice cream
- Eat 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetable every day, one serving of fish 2-3 times a week, and plenty of whole grains and low-fat dairy servings every day
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day
2. Lose Weight
Obesity is another large factor that can increase a senior’s risk of having a stroke. Excess body fat can cause inflammation to occur, which causes poor blood flow and possible blockages, resulting in strokes. If your senior loved one is overweight, losing just 10 pounds can decrease their likelihood of having a stroke greatly. An ideal body mass index for people vary so seniors should talk to their doctor to find a healthy weight loss strategy. The two main ways a senior can use to lose weight are:
- . Be sure to consult a doctor about the appropriate caloric intake for your senior loved one.
- Exercise: Walking, jogging, swimming, golfing, and playing tennis are all great physical activities that can help a senior lose weight
3. Exercise Daily
While exercise contributes to lowering blood pressure and losing weight, it also is its own factor to help prevent strokes in seniors. One study showed that seniors who walked at 3 miles per hour or faster were half as likely to have a stroke than people who did not exercise. It also concluded that the more seniors stay active, the less likely they are to have a stroke. Seniors should moderately exercise 5 days a week. Some methods to achieve this goal are:
- Go on a walk around the neighborhood
- Join a recreation center and take some fitness classes with other seniors
- When exercising, reach an intensity that involves heavy breathing, but can still talk.
- Take the stairs instead of an elevator, when possible
- For more exercises that seniors can do to make their heart healthier and void strokes, click
4. Don’t Drink or Drink Moderately
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol increases the likelihood of having a stroke drastically. Alcohol can result in a senior having a higher blood pressure, being overweight, and damaging their liver. All of these contribute to the risk of having a stroke as well. A goal for seniors should be to either not drink alcohol at all or at least drink it moderately. Some tips to achieve this goal are:
- Do not drink more than one glass of alcohol a day
- If you do choose to drink, try to drink red wine
- If this is difficult for your senior loved one, having them join a support group is a good way to be held accountable and stop drinking
5. Quit Smoking
Smoking speeds up the formation of clots in a variety of ways. It results in seniors’ blood being thickened and increases plaque buildup in the arteries. Some doctors say that quitting smoking can be one of the most powerful lifestyle changes a person can make and help reduce the risk of having a stroke significantly. The goal for seniors would be to quit smoking altogether, not just every now and then. Some helpful ways to help quit smoking are:
- See a doctor for the best way for your senior to quit
- Use some tools like nicotine pills/patches, counseling, or medicine
- Stay persistent: many smokers need multiple tries to quit smoking, so do not give up
If you have any questions or concerns about tips to prevent strokes in seniors, contact us today at At Home Senior Services.