According to the American Heart Association, nearly 800,000 people a year suffer a stroke. After the age of 55, the risk of having a stroke nearly doubles every 10 years. This makes it extremely important for seniors and their caregivers to remain aware of the risk factors and signs associated with strokes.

While age, gender and family history are all uncontrollable risk factors associated with strokes, there are other risk factors that seniors do have greater control over. Taking a proactive approach to reducing or eliminating these risk factors is the key to prevention. This is especially important to consider since nearly 80-percent of strokes are preventable.

Identify Risk Factors

The first step in preventing a stroke is to understand what causes it. There are many risk factors that increase a person’s risk of having a stroke including weight, diagnosed heart conditions, diabetes, leading a sedentary lifestyle and smoking. Take part in a wellness exam on at least an annual basis for early detection of risk factors associated with a stroke. Also, keep your doctor up to date of any changes in your health to increase your chances at prevention.

Once you have identified the risk factors impacting your health and wellbeing, consider making some positive changes to alleviate or reduce them.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Making healthy lifestyle choices at any age is important, and this is especially true for the elderly. Staying active, eating a balanced diet that contains primarily whole foods and forgoing alcohol or drinking only in moderation (a glass of red wine each night is believed to be a heart healthy choice) are all important steps to take. Make healthy food choices everyday including sweet potatoes, fatty fish high in Omega-3, legumes and nuts for snacks, low fat dairy and healthy olive oil. If you smoke, now is the time to stop. Take control of your weight If you are overweight or obese. Following a healthy diet and exercise plan makes it possible to shed those excess pounds and remain healthier.

Medical Conditions

Healthy lifestyle choices also include staying on top of medical conditions, seeing your doctor and following his advice when it comes to medications and lifestyle choices. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol all increase an individual’s chances of having a stroke.

Know your numbers. Keep track of them so that it is easier to share information with your doctor at every visit. Strive to keep your blood pressure at or below 120/80. Check your blood sugar before and after meals and exercise if you have diabetes. If you are taking medications for any health conditions, do so exactly as prescribed. Enlist the help of a friend, family member or professional in home aide to provide medication reminders and assistance with obtaining refills for medications promptly if necessary. Also remember, it is never advised to just stop taking a medication even if you experience side effects. Talk to your doctor first, explain your concerns and follow his advice.

Watch for Depression

Depression is a contributor to strokes because of how it impacts lifestyles. A depressed senior is more likely to lead a reclusive lifestyle, eat more and exercise less. All of this is a recipe for obesity, a primary risk factor for strokes. Studies show that even after depression goes away, the risk of having a stroke remains higher. This is a reason to seek treatment early if any signs exist.  If you feel persistent sadness, hopelessness, guilt, irritability, insomnia or exhaustion, talk to your doctor and get the help you need.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is the time for your body to rest, recovery and replenish. For most individuals, the target should be 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Studies show that any more than 9 hours can raise the risk of having a stroke by up to 63-percent. If your sleep is restless or you frequently snore, that also increases your risk of having a stroke. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping enough or sleeping soundly, increase daytime activity to see if that helps. Sometimes, following a set schedule for waking and sleeping also makes a difference. If neither of these options have a positive impact, visit a doctor for a medical evaluation and sleep study to determine the underlying problem.

Stroke prevention is important at every age. With the increased risk that comes with age, this is especially true for elderly individuals. Prevention promotes longevity and makes it easier to age in place. So, this an important goal for seniors that is worth placing emphasis on.

If your aging loved one is struggling to independently follow heart healthy guidelines, Salus Homecare Orange County can help. Our in home care services include healthy meal planning and preparation, encouraging seniors to take place in safe activity, transportation to medical appointments, medication reminders and conversation and companionship that reduces the risk of depression. To learn more about our services or schedule a free, no obligation evaluation, simply give us a call.