What You Need to Know About Stroke Prevention (Even if You're not a Senior Citizen!)

Graphic of a heart beating with a electrocardiogram (EKG) on top of it.

Strokes don't just happen to the elderly—young people get them as well. A stroke can strike as early as your 20s, and stroke incidents are on the rise among the younger adults. Even a minor stroke or a so-called "mini-stroke" can have lifelong physical, emotional, and cognitive consequences.

A stroke happens when one of the arteries or blood vessels leading to your brain gets blocked. The brain is deprived of oxygen or nutrients, causing significant neurological problems. In some cases, the blockage even causes the artery or blood vessel to burst.

All this means it pays to pay attention to stroke risks.

You Need to Get Screened

One reason younger adults are more vulnerable to stroke is they tend to skip wellness checks. This means you can be in your 20s and completely unaware you already have high cholesterol, one of seven medical risk factors for stroke.

High blood pressure is another risk factor which would show up in a medical screening. It's another condition associated with aging now showing up in a higher percentage of young people.

So if you’re in your 20s or later and haven’t gotten your numbers checked—get thee to a doctor's office! Get screened even if you feel "fine." Both high cholesterol and high blood pressure can be symptom-free well after they become problematic.  

Your Weight Makes a Difference

It may be hard to take this one seriously. Sometimes it seems like almost every health condition gets related back to weight one way or another. Still, in this case the link is clear. Not only is obesity linked to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but excess fatty tissue can increase inflammation, restricting blood flow.

While genetic factors, medication side effects and certain medical conditions can make it harder to lose weight, everyone can control their diet and exercise routines. Taking both measures will lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure, decreasing your risk.

See also: Can Eating Kale Help People Lose Weight?

Let Your Medicine Be Your Food

The American Stroke Association has put together a stroke prevention diet. The diet consists of whole grains, lean meats, fish rich in omega-3s, fat-free dairy and low-sodium, unprocessed foods.

The ASA also recommends eating lots of green leafy vegetables. Kale is especially helpful, as it can lower your cholesterol. It is, in fact, 43% as effective on its own as a leading anti-cholesterol pharmaceutical.

Other Lifestyle Risk Factors


38 million adults smoke. If you're one of them, you're increasing your stroke risk every time you light up. Vaping isn't any better. While e-cigarettes aren't as toxic as the old fashioned kind, they still raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Excessive alcohol use is another lifestyle risk factor. A glass of wine with dinner is fine. Men can tolerate up to two drinks a day, and women up to one, before they enter the danger zone. But heavy drinking increases your blood pressure too.

Medical Risk Factors

If you have certain medical conditions you need to be especially vigilant. Migraine sufferers already contend with ebbs and flows in blood supply to the brain, factors which may not cause the condition directly but which certainly exacerbate it.

See also: Headaches? Migraine? Kale May Help!

Those who suffer from atrial fibrillation are at a higher risk for blood clots, which can block blood vessels and arteries.

Diabetics should be especially vigilant as well. Diabetes can contribute to every condition which can lead to a stroke, and people with diabetes are four times more likely to suffer from one.  

Signs of a Stroke

If you are at-risk for stroke it's important to know the signs. Most people know the FAST acronym: face drooping, unable to raise both arms, and slurred speech means it's time to call 911 right away. But there are other symptoms, including:

  • Weakness

  • Paralysis of any part of the body

  • Dizziness

  • Sudden, severe headaches

  • Confusion

  • Trouble walking

  • Muscle stiffness

  • Vision changes

Some of these can happen quickly and pass again, which means you may have suffered from a minor, or transient stroke. These are serious, and each one you suffer increases your risk of having another, more severe stroke. If you find yourself dealing with any of these symptoms be sure to get to your doctor right away.

You shouldn't be constantly worried about a stroke, of course. The point is to be aware, not to get scared. And with a little vigilance and a little prevention, you may never have to worry about having a stroke of any kind. If you recognize some of these risk factors in yourself, just make some changes today to live your longest, healthiest, and happiest life.


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