3 steps to reduce your risk of stroke

(NewsUSA) - Four out of five victims of a stroke saw no obvious warning signs -- meaning 80 percent of adults who suffered a stroke had no idea they could have managed their risk factors, according to the National Stroke Association.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says stroke has become the fourth leading killer in the U.S. If adults can't rely on warning symptoms to point to signs of a stroke, they should take stroke prevention into their own hands. Many of the most significant risk factors are controllable.

"Preventive health screening aims to identify those with subclinical disease at a time when lifestyle changes and medical management can make a difference," explains Dr. Andrew Manganaro, the Chief Medical Officer at Life Line Screening -- a provider of community-based vascular screenings.

"The risk factors for cardiovascular disease are incredibly prevalent. The latest statistical research reveals 94 percent of the U.S. population has at least one serious risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The facts are clear. We are a nation at risk."

Consider three simple steps -- lifestyle changes you probably should've made years ago -- to lower your risk of stroke.

1. Get a preventative screening. This is the most important preventative step you can take. Diet and lifestyle changes won't alleviate your risk if your family has a history of stroke, Type 2 diabetes or carotid artery disease.

2. Find 3.5 more hours each week to be physically active. Besides reducing risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol, exercise keeps arteries flexible. Take three more walks each week, buy a fun exercise DVD like Zumba or just add a set of push-ups or sit-ups to your workout routine.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, increasing your level of physical activity by 3.5 hours per week can reduce your risk of stroke by almost 40 percent, regardless of your age.

3. Write a step-by-step plan to stop smoking. Women who smoke a pack a day are at increased risk of hypertension, plus their cardiovascular system is damaged by continued nicotine and carbon monoxide.

Making a plan to quit is the first step, but following through is the toughest step. Write down when you smoke, why you smoke and what you are doing when you smoke. This will show what triggers you to smoke, which is necessary to help you figure out a way to replace those urges with something less harmful.