Ever had a sharp, severe pain in your head? Ever had that fleeting fear that it was a stroke? Then, when you realize you were still intact, did you wonder what a stroke REALLY would feel like?
I know that for me, there is an underlying fear of what they would be like. A destruction to that all-important brain tissue. You know—the stuff we REALLY need…
For many seniors that I talk to, protecting their brains is on the top of the list of priorities. For many of the younger generations, the risk seems remote and not enough to pay any attention to.
The problem with this attitude is that your risk of a stroke begins decades before that stroke ever occurs. The damage that occurs to your blood vessels, the damage that ultimately leads to a blockage that cuts off the oxygen supply to a region of your brain and kills those cells, can begin as early as childhood.
Things like being diabetic / pre-diabetic (which includes being overweight, having lipid abnormalities like high triglycerides or cholesterol), smoking and living a sedentary lifestyle all produce an “atherogenic” state. An atherogenic state is one where your blood vessels are slowly damaged, producing a plaque that can, at any time, break off and block a smaller blood vessels further along.
Study after study has shown that the right lifestyle choices will protect your blood vessels and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. This particular study is no exception. Further, just like every other study, it points out just how simple the lifestyle choices can be. We are not talking about living with the Dalai Lama meditating 6 hours a day and eating only organic tofu and rice while drinking green tea.
Nope. Not even close. In this study, looking at 31,696 women living in Sweden, they looked at 5 lifestyle patterns:
- A healthy diet (top 50% of a Recommended Food Score)
- Moderate alcohol consumption (5–15 g/d)
- Never smoking
- Physically active (walking/bicycling ≥40 min/d and exercise ≥1 h/wk)
- Body mass index below 25 kg/m2.
None of these 5 factors are unreasonable. The only one you cannot change today is whether or not you smoked in the past. All the others you can work towards changing today.
So just how powerful were these 5 factors when compared to people who were unhealthy enough to not have any factors?
- Those who had one positive factor had a 28% lower risk of stroke.
- Two factors 33% lower.
- Three factors 43% lower.
- Four factors slashed risk 46%.
- All five factors led to a commendable 62% lower risk of having a stroke.
Sixty-two percent drop from 5 basic lifestyle factors. We are not even talking about short-burst aerobic exercise or specific dietary changes or even supplements shown to lower stroke risk.
If you think this is too much to worry about…This is YOUR BRAIN we are talking about. If you’ve known a stroke victim that survived, think about the loss of function and the ability to lead the same life he or she did before the event. If that is not enough to motivate you to make a few simple changes, nothing probably will.