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Five Ways to Lower Your Stroke Risk

Five critical steps to prevent a stroke.
A new study shows middle aged women suffering with depression are almost twice as likely to have a stroke. However, there are things you can do to cut your odds of having a stroke.

Keven Bellows vowed to take better care of herself after losing her husband to Alzheimer's.

"I thought if there was anything I can do to prevent that from happening to me, I want to take advantage of it," Keven Bellows told Ivanhoe.

She took her first step to a healthier lifestyle with the help of her newly adopted dog named rag-a-muffin. Studies show women who walk three hours a week lower their risk for stroke by 43 percent.

"There have been a number of studies that show that physical exercise may be the key to preserving healthy brain function," David Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCLA Health, told Ivanhoe.

Another way to cut your stroke risk, watch your diet.

"Nutrition is really central," Bellows said.

Diets filled with olive oil and potassium rich foods, like bananas, can lower your risk by 20 percent. Quitting smoking, and keeping cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels can also help.  

"The better control you have over the modifiable risk factors, the lower your stroke risk will be," Dr. Merrill explained.

High stress levels and anger can cause thickening of the neck arteries, which can also lead to stroke.

"I am pretty good about stress reduction because I am a mediator. So, I mediate on a daily basis," Bellows said.

Finally, think fast to recognize stroke symptoms.

"F" for face-watch for an uneven smile or numbness; "A" for arms and legs-which can become numb or paralyzed; "S" is for speech-it could be slurred or confusing; and "t" is for time-you don't have much of it! 

If you suspect a stroke, call 911 because every second of time lost is brain lost.

Doctors also urge you to monitor your headaches. Research shows women who suffer from migraines are at an increased risk of stroke.  

BACKGROUND:  Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer every year. However, women in a recent survey believed breast cancer is five times more prevalent than stroke and 40 percent of women said they were only somewhat or not at all concerned about experiencing a stroke in their life.  One way to improve the odds for not having a stroke is to learn about the lifestyle changes and medicines that can lower your stroke risk.  (Source: www.stroke.org)

RISK FACTORS:  Some risk factors are the same for both men and women. For example: smoking, diabetes, being overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, not exercising, and family history.  However, there are risks that are unique to women:

•Being pregnant; stroke risk is greater during a normal pregnancy due to natural changes in the body, like blood pressure and stress on the heart.
•Taking birth control pills.
•Using Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), a combined hormone therapy of estrogen and progestin, to relieve menopausal symptoms.
•Having migraines frequently; migraines can increase a woman’s risk three to six times, and most Americans who suffer migraines are women.
•Having a thick waist and high triglyceride (blood fat) level; post-menopausal women with a waist size larger than 35.2 inches and a triglyceride level higher than 128 milligrams per liter may have a five-fold increased risk for stroke. (Source: www.stroke.org)

SPECIAL ISSUES:  Dr. Dawn Kleindorfer, Assistant Professor of Neurology at University of Cincinnati School of Medicine, says that stroke causes special problems for women.  Stroke impacts women uniquely because they tend to be older when they have their stroke.  Because of that fact, more women die from stroke than men.  Also, women tend to have more disability and have trouble doing the activities of their daily living after their stroke.  (Source: www.stroke.org)

 For More Information, Contact:

Rachel Champeau
Assistant Director
UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations
(310) 794-2270 or (310) 794-0777
rchampeau@mednet.ucla.edu

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