May is Stroke Awareness Month…High Cholesterol Increases Risk

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Did you know that high cholesterol increases your risk of stroke? And that stroke is not an ‘old person’s’ disease? According to the Million Hearts site, “Stroke can happen to anyone at any time.”

The good news is that 80% of strokes are preventable.  The bad news is that stroke risk factors may not be recognized and treated in younger or middle-aged adults.

The CDC lists stroke risk factors including certain conditions and behaviors (aka lifestyle):

Conditions that increase Stroke Risk:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Sickle Cell Disease
  • Previous Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

Behaviors that increase Stroke Risk:

  • Unhealthy Diet (specifically, diets high in saturated and trans fats, which also raise cholesterol)
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Too Much Alchohol
  • Smoking

Signs of Stroke in Men and Women

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Remember ‘FAST’ to identify signs of stroke:












How to Lower Your Stroke Risk

There are steps you can take at any age to lower your risk for stroke—which are the same steps you can take to lower cholesterol:

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat (avoid red meat and full fat dairy), with little-no trans fats, that is high in fiber, and limits salt.  For more detailed information, see my post, What You Eat Really Can Improve Heart Health.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise.  See my post, How Much Exercise For Boosting Heart Health, for specifics. The amount of exercise you need is probably less than you think!
  • No Smoking
  • Limit Alcohol, as alcohol raises blood pressure. The CDC recommends that “Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women only one. For more information, visit CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health website.”

Here’s a fascinating look at stroke risk by state and county (scroll down to see entire US):


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