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10 Controllable Risk Factors Can Prevent Most Strokes

Ninety percent of strokes can be prevented.

One of the leading causes of death and disability in the world is stroke. Researchers have found there are 10 controllable risk factors that account for 90% of all strokes globally. Hypertension is the cause of 39-60% of strokes (varies among regions). The other nine causes: physical inactivity (36%), high blood lipids (fats) (27%), poor diet (23%), obesity (19%), smoking (12%), heart causes (9%), alcohol use (6%), stress (6%), and diabetes (4%).

PositiveTip: Living healthfully can reduce most of the risk factors for stroke!

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Pot Smokers at Risk for Brain Vessel Blockage

Smoking pot precipitates narrowing of brain vessels and probably risk of stroke.

As marijuana (cannabis) use increases, particularly in the young, there is growing concern that younger (under 50) users are at higher risk for ischemic strokes. French research had found regular cannabis users were 3 times as likely to experience intercranial stenosis (narrowing of brain arteries) as non-pot smokers. More research is needed to determine if this finding is causally linked to cannabis use.

PositiveTip: Many think marijuana use is safe, but it does carry serious health risks.

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A Stroke Impacts Spouse's Health, Too

Strokes have long-term impact on spouse health.

Swedish researchers report caring for a spouse who had a stroke may negatively impact their mental and physical health for years to come. The two most important predictors of the caregiver spouse's quality of life was the extent of the spouse's stroke disability and their own age. Even when stroke survivors impairment was relatively mild the caregivers reported decreased mental health for several years after the event when compared to control spouses.

PositiveTip: Family and community help is essential in long-lasting support for the spouse of a stroke survivor.

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Obesity Increases Risk of Stroke in Younger Adults

Excess weight increases stroke risk.

Researchers compared 1,201 people who had their first stroke between ages 15-49 with a control group who had no strokes. After adjusting for age, race, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure the obese men had a 34% higher risk of stroke and women a 7% higher risk than the normal weight controls. Because this studied relied on self-reported height and weight, it may have underestimated the impact of obesity and stroke.

PositiveTip: Maintain normal weight through a healthy diet and lifestyle to minimize risk of stroke.

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Walking Lowers Risk of Stroke

Time spent walking seems more important than the speed of walking.

A British study of over 3000 healthy men ages 60-80 found as their walking increased their risk of stroke decreased. Those who walked 8-14 hours per week had one-third the risk of stroke compared to those who walked 3 hours per week or less. When they upped their walking to 22 hours per week their stroke risk dropped by two-thirds! Walking burns calories, helps the heart and muscles and relieves stress.

PositiveTip: Put on your walking shoes and get moving today--and each day following!

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Salt Reduction Makes an Impact in the U.K.

While still too high, the English are benefitting from lower salt consumption.

Between 2003 and 2011 stroke deaths in the U.K. decreased 42% (P<0.001) and ischemic heart disease fell by 40% (P<0.001). During the same time salt intake decreased by 1.4 g/day (P<0.01) measured by 24-hour urinary sodium. The findings of this 8-year study appear to support a key role for lower salt intake. Despite this progress, the 2011 average salt intake in England (8.1 g/day) is still 35% higher than the recommended 6 g/day.

PositiveTip: Make intentional efforts to eat less salty foods!

New Guidelines for Old

Patient focus

Late in 2013 new guidelines were published for health care professionals to manage people at risk of cardiac or vascular (stroke) disease. The guidelines were written because the old guidelines did not 1) address the risk of stroke, 2) consider younger patients with risk factors but normal cholesterol numbers, and 3) make recommendations in the area of lifestyle and obesity concerns. The old guidelines focused on cholesterol numbers. The new guidelines focus on the patient.

The guidelines written by the American Academy of Cardiology and the American Heart Association address four specific areas:

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Why A Peaceful Life May Be a Longer Life

Chronic anxiety is linked to increased risk of stroke

Anxiety is the most common mental illness and is now linked to a common cause of death. American Heart Association research reviewed 22 years of data from 6000 people aged 25-74. They found the most anxious people were 33% more likely to have a stroke later in life. Anxiety induced inactivity, smoking, higher stress hormone levels, heart rate or blood pressure are all possible causes.

Positive Tip: If you have anxiety, seek professional support and learn the truth found in Phil 4:6,7

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Many Benefits from a Mediterranean-type Diet

Metiterranean diet pattern lowers risk of stroke, depression, and dementia.

The Mediterranean dietary pattern is one high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds; low in red and processed meat; and moderate in olive oil, eggs, poultry and fish. A meta-analysis of 22 studies examining this dietary pattern found high adherence was associated with a reduction in risk of stroke (29% lower), depression (32% lower) and cognitive impairment (40% lower).

PositiveTip: Increase the fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in your diet to enjoy better health for longer.

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Stroke Cases Up Globally

In 2010 16.9 million people worldwide had a first stroke.

There has been a 25% increased global incidence of first stroke in those ages 20-64 since 1990. Also, the number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost increased by 12% to 102 million annually. Analysis showed that hemorrhagic, not ischemic stroke accounted for the majority of deaths and DALYs. Lower income countries are experiencing a significant growth in these strokes.