Stroke risk is up 50% worldwide – what can be done?

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Since 2005, the incidence of stroke has increased by 50% worldwide, and one in four people is expected to experience a stroke in their lifetime. As National Stroke Awareness Month begins, experts highlight the role modifiable risk factors such as diet and lifestyle play in stroke prevention. Genetics and age are unmodifiable factors, but his 80% of strokes are preventable through diet and lifestyle changes. With obesity on the rise and poor diets around the world, adopting a healthier diet such as the Mediterranean diet and avoiding processed foods can greatly reduce the risk of stroke. The CDC also recommends quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, and monitoring blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

The incidence of stroke has increased by 50% since 2005, with diet and lifestyle playing a key role. Adopting healthier habits could prevent him from 80% of strokes, highlighting the importance of National Stroke Awareness Month.

Since 2005, the likelihood of stroke has 50% increase worldwideaccording to world health organizationAccording to another report by the World Stroke Organization, more than 12 million “new” strokes occur each year. Overall, the data suggest that about one in four people in the world is expected to have a stroke in her lifetime.

These are some serious stats to consider as we head into National Stroke Awareness Month, which began on May 1st.

American Stroke Awareness

What’s Behind the Increase in Strokes?

A stroke — a blockage of blood flow to the brain — can be caused by a variety of factors, and everyone has their own specific risk factors that can predispose them to stroke, according to interventionalists. Neurologist and medical scientist May Nour, M.D., said:director of[{” attribute=””>UCLA Arline and Henry Gluck Stroke Rescue Program.

“In general, there are ‘modifiable’ risk factors and ‘non-modifiable’ risk factors. For example, genetics would be a non-modifiable risk factor. Some people are born with genes that have a higher predisposition to strokes, and for them it’s inherited,” Dr. Nour said.

That said, the vast majority of strokes are preventable with diet and other lifestyle changes. “These are the modifiable risk factors that can be customized to reduce a person’s risk,” Dr. Nour said. “Eighty percent of strokes are preventable,”

Reducing stroke risks

While age remains the most critical risk factor for stroke, diet also can play a significant role. “The incidence of obesity is increasing around the world, and the quality of our diets is decreasing,” says Dana Hunnes, PhD, adjunct assistant professor of community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and a clinical dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

She attributes the rise in stroke risks globally to the same factors that contribute to the global obesity crisis. “People are eating more processed foods. This is a global phenomenon,” Dr. Hunnes said.

Brain Stroke Risk Factors

Credit: UCLA Health

But unlike genes and age, diet is a modifiable risk factor. “There are many things that can potentially increase one’s risk for a stroke. A diet that is high in animal proteins or one that includes foods that are highly inflammatory increase stroke risk,” Dr. Hunnes said.

Altering our diets can go a long way toward reducing risk, said Kayla Kilani, a nurse manager with the UCLA Health Mobile Stroke Unit. “We want to stay away from overdoing the obvious things that can put us at high risk for a stroke, such as fast foods and sugar-filled snacks,” Kilani said. “I tell people to shop around the perimeter of the grocery store; that is where you tend to find the healthier items versus the processed foods that are in the center aisles and frozen food sections.”

Dr. Hunnes added that there are specific diets that are recommended to decrease stroke risks. “We know that the Mediterranean diet is probably one of the best diets out there for reducing risk of disease. Eating a diet that is rich in fresh vegetables and fruits and whole grains is one of the best things you can do to help reduce the risk of stroke,” Dr. Hunnes said.

In addition to eating a healthy diet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends additional steps to reduce stroke risks:

  • Don’t smoke (or stop if you do)
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Exercise regularly
  • Monitor and control blood pressure
  • Monitor blood-sugar levels to control diabetes

Learn more about reducing stroke risks by visiting the UCLA Health Comprehensive Stroke Center.

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