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Number One Cause of Stroke…and the Other 8

The number one cause of stroke is unavoidable, but the next eight are not.  Number one is birthdays, and the older one is the greater the chance for a blockage of some part of our arterial system which can result in an ischemic or arterial stroke.  So, we cannot avoid getting older, but here are eight tips on what we can do to prevent strokes:


  1. Right Sleep – Too little sleep can as much as quadruple the risk of stroke, even among middle-aged people. But so can too much sleep…the happy medium is about seven to eight hours of sleep.
  2. Oral Hygiene – The dentist will tell you that brushing twice daily along with flossing is great at preventing tooth decay. It also clears oral bacteria that can cause blood vessel inflammation.  One study found oral bacteria in nearly four of every five blood clots of stroke patients.
  3. Missing a Beat – Irregular heart rhythm, or atrial fibrillation, is a warning sign for stroke. People with AFib have a 500 percent greater chance of stroke than those without the flutter.
  4. Binge Bad – Hangovers are not just a sign that one has had too much to drink, but it also triples the chance of stroke…even if it is only once in a year. It is recommended that women have only one drink a day and men only two.
  5. Fighting Bacteria – Antibiotics are great at getting rid of harmful bacterial infections in our systems, but we can get too much of a good thing. Antibiotics also clear our gut of helpful bacteria, so limit use and eat yogurt or probiotics.
  6. More than Flu – Having the flu feels lousy, but it also leads to systemic inflammation. Having the flu or flu-like symptoms can increase the likelihood of stroke in the next two weeks by 40 percent.
  7. Don’t Sit – You may have heard talk about how sitting is the new smoking. Even if a person runs distance every day, too much sitting the rest of the day encourages a stroke.  Sit less than five hours a day.
  8. Red Meat – Just say no. For every 100 grams of red or processed meat consumed daily, heart disease risk jumps nearly 20 percent.  You don’t have to go vegan, but work at substituting plant proteins for meat regularly.

Don’t think of this list as a mountain too high to climb.  Think of it as a step at a time for your older loved one…and for you.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.


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