SAN DIEGO – Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Every four minutes, someone dies. How can you lower your chances of being one of them? First, find out if you’re at risk.
“The risk factors are usually the same — smoking, aging, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol,” said Dr. Mahmoud Malas, chief of vascular and endovascular surgery at the University of California San Diego.
Maintaining a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and exercising regularly can improve your odds, but there are other, little-known ways to defend yourself. One is flossing. Some studies have shown improved gum health may slow the progression of atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries.
“The problem with this blockage is that little pieces of plaque break off and goes to the brain and cause an embolic stroke,” Malas explained.
Also, a recent analysis found consuming one to three cups of coffee a day protected patients against stroke. For men, other research has shown sex may prevent the buildup of the chemical homocysteine in men, which at high levels, can increase the risk of blood clots and heart attacks. Lastly, dark chocolate may be a stroke buster. One study found those who ate a weekly serving were 22% less likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate no chocolate.
Meditation may also lower your chances of stroke. In a small study, blacks with heart disease who practiced transcendental meditation twice daily were 48% less likely to have a stroke, heart attack, or die than those who took a health education class.