The number of middle-aged men and women suffering a cerebral stroke has apparently risen significantly in the last decade or so. It seems that the press release from the Stroke Association making this pronouncement which has been widely reported almost verbatim by the media is based on NHS hospital admission statistics, which could have all kinds of biases and errors. I couldn’t find an actual peer-reviewed research paper to support the numbers and neither could Adam Jacobs the stats guy. It may well be just scaremongering by the media and it’s sure to boost charitable donations and raise awareness, but it’s also scary for anyone in middle age, scary enough to get you worrying and raise your blood pressure. That said, there are certain lifestyle choices that medical research suggests increase the risk of stroke, whether this latest media frenzy is based on published science or not, and so some advice on reducing one’s risk might be useful.
Thankfully, The Guardian has a nice howto on lowering your risk of suffering this often life-changing and sometimes lethal cardiovascular event.
Basically, it boils down to this:
- Stop smoking
- Exercise, but don’t overdo it, avoid straining
- Cut your calorie intake, eat smaller portions (obesity and diabetes increase risk)
- Eat a lot less salt, avoid shop-bought bread, for instance
- If you drink alcohol, spread it over the week rather than binging
- Don’t use illicit recreational drugs, including so-called “legal” highs like ecstasy, flakka and cat
- De-stress, seek help for depression
- Monitor your own blood pressure at home and see your doc if it’s consistently higher than about 140/85
I’d add another piece of advice…don’t ignore a “mini-stroke” (transient ischaemic attack (TIA)), temporary blackouts and such, if you have weird symptoms (dropping your coffee cup, slurred speech, confusion, disorientation that passes after a moment and isn’t due to alcohol use, see your doc urgently)