Shrink your risk of stroke

World Stroke Day 2011 is this Saturday October 29. Each year approximately 10,000 Irish people have a stroke, and sadly 2,000 people die as a result. It is estimated that 30,000 people are living in the community with a disability caused by a stroke. This makes stroke the third largest killer in Ireland, and the biggest cause of acquired disability.

Several factors have been identified which can increase a person’s risk of having a stroke. Issues such as increasing age, family history, and genetics, we can’t do much about. But the good news is by taking action on other factors, we can significantly reduce our risk of having a stroke.

Diabetes happens when the blood glucose levels are too high. Having diabetes increases risk of ‘vascular’ disease – a hardening and narrowing of the blood vessel walls (often due to fatty deposits such as cholesterol ).

Know your blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure, your heart must work harder to pump blood. To help lower your blood pressure try quitting smoking, reducing salt intake, and aim for a healthy weight. If your doctor recommends medication, it is important to take it exactly as prescribed.

Know your cholesterol number: High cholesterol makes you more susceptible to heart disease. Eating for a healthier heart means choosing foods low in saturated fat, lean meats, using low-fat cooking methods, eating five portions of fruits, vegetables, and wholegrain, including oily fish twice weekly, and being more active.

If you drink alcohol, don’t drink too much: Latest research suggests that drinking one alcoholic drink daily (100ml wine, half pint of beer, one measure of spirits ) can help reduce risk of stroke. The bad news is that drinking two or more alcoholic drinks daily can increase risk of stroke.

Include exercise in your daily routine: Studies have shown that taking 30 minutes of activity at least five times a week can reduce your risk of stroke by nearly a quarter. Start with short regular planned sessions of exercise and gradually increase these as you are able.

For information on heart disease and stroke see www.irishheart.ie and on diet see www.irishheart.ie or www.weight2live.ie or www.indi.ie

Would you like to be an X-PERT in your diabetes care? X-PERT is a free six-week diabetes education programme for people with type 2 diabetes.

By Pauline Dunne, community dietitian. If you have diabetes and would like to attend the next X-PERT programme in your area please contact the Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster at (044 ) 9353220 or email [email protected].

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