Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, causing approximately 128,842 deaths each year. A disproportionate number of those affected by stroke are over 50, as each decade you live past the age of 55, your chance of stroke nearly doubles, according to the American Stroke Association.
The good news? Approximately 50 percent of strokes are preventable.
While some ways of reducing stroke risk are not-so-easy (quitting smoking), there are also easy lifestyle changes that could make a big difference. Check out the slideshow below for ways to protect your brain from the risk of stroke.
Avoid Drugs Known To Raise Blood Pressure
"Hypertension is by far the most potent risk factor for stroke, caus[ing] a two-to four-fold increase in the risk of stroke before age 80," according to <a href="http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/stroke/preventing_stroke.htm#Treatable Risk Factors">National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke</a>. Unfortunately, regular usage of drugs like Acetaminophen (tylenol), and <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/blood-pressure/MY00256">anti-depressants</a> like Venlafaxine (Effexor, Effexor XR), Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL), Desipramine (Norpramin) and Phenelzine (Nardil), can increase one's risk of hypertension.
Eat More Potassium
Last year a study published in the journal "<a href="http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2011/07/28/STROKEAHA.111.622142">Stroke</a>," indicated that a potassium rich diet is associated with lower stroke risk. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, counteract the effects of sodium, and maintains your body's fluid balance. Potassium rich foods include white beans, spinach, potatoes, apricots, banana and avocados.
Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Drinking a large amount of caffeine temporarily raises your blood pressure by blocking a "hormone that keeps your blood vessels widened, allowing blood to easily flow through them," according to the <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/blood-pressure/MY00256">Mayo Clinic</a>. While there isn't sufficient evidence to prove that caffeine increases your risk of stroke long-term, doctors recommend limiting your daily caffeine in take to the equivalent of two, <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/blood-pressure/MY00256">12-ounce cups of coffee</a>.
Cigarette smoking has been linked to the build-up of fatty substances "in the carotid artery, the main neck artery supplying blood to the brain," according to the <a href="http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/stroke/preventing_stroke.htm#Treatable Risk Factors">National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke</a>. The blocking of this artery is the leading cause of stroke among Americans.
Avoid Foods That Are High In Cholesterol
High cholesterol causes the build up of plaque in your arteries, blocking blood flow to the brain, according to the <a href="http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=cholesterol">National Stroke Association</a>. Foods high in cholesterol include egg yolk, fatty meats, butter and cream.
Exercising regularly reduces your risk of obesity, diabetes and hypertension - conditions that are all associated with stroke risk.