Managing Stroke Risk Through Diet, Drugs, and Procedures
Following a Heart-Healthy Diet
In order to reduce the chances for a stroke, you should follow a heart-healthy diet. This means a diet that's low in fat, cholesterol, and salt, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber. It doesn't mean that you can never have pizza or ice cream again. Experts point out that a heart-healthy diet should be the routine. That way, when you have high-fat food every now and then, you're still on track. Making a high-fat diet the routine is asking for trouble.
Remember that a heart-healthy diet is fine for the whole family, including children from the age of 2 to 4 onward. Children under 2 years of age should NOT follow the heart-healthy diet -- they need more fat to provide enough calories for growth and development.
A heart-healthy diet includes the following:
- 8 to 10 percent of the day's total calories from saturated fat.
- 30 percent or less of the day's total calories from fat.
- Less than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day.
- A sodium intake of 2,400 milligrams a day.
- Just enough calories to achieve or maintain a healthy weight and reduce your blood cholesterol level. (Talk to your doctor or registered dietitian about a reasonable calorie level for your situation.)
Medications and ProceduresFor some people, lifestyle changes alone may not be enough to significantly reduce their risk of having a stroke. As part of a stroke prevention plan, doctors may recommend medications in addition to lifestyle changes. Some of these medications decrease the ability for your blood to clot or prevent clots from getting bigger if they do form. Some commonly prescribed medicines for preventing a stroke include:
- Warfarin (Coumadin®, Jantoven®)
- Clopidogrel (Plavix®)
- Ticlopidine (Ticlid®)
- Dipyridamole (Persantine®)
- Aspirin and dipyridamole (Aggrenox®).
Healthcare providers may recommend certain procedures to treat conditions known to increase the risk for stroke. One of these procedures is a carotid endarterectomy.
A carotid endarterectomy is a surgical procedure in which a doctor removes fatty deposits blocking one of the two carotid arteries, the main supply of blood for the brain. Carotid artery problems become more common as people age. The disease process that causes the buildup of fat and other material inside the artery walls is called atherosclerosis, popularly known as "hardening of the arteries." The fatty deposit is called plaque; the narrowing of the artery is called stenosis. The degree of stenosis is usually expressed as a percentage of the normal diameter of the opening.
This surgery can help prevent strokes in people:
- Who have already had a stroke
- Who have experienced the symptoms of a stroke (such as people with a history of a transient ischemic attack or TIA), or have a severe narrowing of the carotid artery.
Clinical studies have shown up to an 80 percent reduction in the risk of stroke or death in these groups of people.