Stop strokes: diet and activity keep stroke at bay

A healthy diet and moderate activity keep stroke at bay, says nutritionist Shefalee Loth.

Physiotherapy staff are all too aware of the devastating effects of stroke as many will have helped survivors regain muscle control and strength afterwards. Recovery can be a long and painful process, made even harder by the knowledge that the stroke might have been prevented. 
Research shows that up to nine in 10 strokes are preventable. The biggest risk factor is high blood pressure, responsible for at least half of all strokes. Other lifestyle risk factors include smoking, high salt intake, a diet low in fruit and vegetables, alcohol, being overweight and inactivity.
Traditionally, stroke was seen as a condition that mostly affected men over 55, but that is no longer true. While the number of strokes has actually dropped by a third in recent years, from 150,000 to 100,000 a year, the proportion of strokes in younger people and those of working age is increasing, as is the proportion of strokes in women. 
At Blood Pressure UK, we are seeing more people in their 20s, 30s and 40s with high blood pressure, often as a result of poor diet and unhealthy lifestyles.  See here for more information
Our campaign Know Your Numbers! encourages people of all ages to find out their blood pressure numbers. High blood pressure rarely has symptoms and the only way to know you have it is to be tested. 
Around one in adult in three in the UK has high blood pressure – around 19 million people, although a third of these are undiagnosed. High blood pressure costs the NHS more than £2 billion a year. 
Physios can help to reduce these numbers by encouraging patients to be active where possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean running or the gym – walking, gardening, swimming and dancing all count. An ideal target is 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, where moderate activity is defined as anything that gets you slightly warm and out of breath.
  • Shefalee Loth is a nutritionist, Blood Pressure UK
Shefalee Loth is a nutritionist, Blood Pressure UK

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