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3rd April 2024

Important steps to prevent stroke

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Can stress trigger stroke? Is it preventable? What are the risk factors of stroke?

There are many burning questions around stroke and stroke prevention, and we have the answers!

We asked Client Wellbeing Practitioner, Erica Li, about the frequently asked questions for stroke prevention. Get informed below!

Can stress trigger stroke?

The short answer is yes. Research shows that stress can be a significant contributing factor for a person having a stroke. Both short and long-term emotional stress can increase the risk of stroke. However, most importantly, there are steps everyone can take to reduce this risk.

What are risk factors of stroke?

Research shows that a range of factors can increase your risk of stroke, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and stress.

Stress can also affect cardiovascular health, increase cholesterol, aggravate blood clotting and high blood pressure, with chronic stress contributing to diabetes. All these factors are enablers and significantly increase the risk of stroke.

By reducing your risk factors, you may reduce the chance of stroke. Chat to your GP who can give you tips to:

  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Decrease high cholesterol
  • Manage and closely monitor diabetes
  • Manage stress proactively.

Regular exercise

Ideally three to five times per week for at least 30 minutes per day. These days many people are time poor, but there are quick exercises that can be done to move the body such as stretching, Tai Chi, walking or jogging.

Practice mindfulness

Evidence shows that mindfulness skills are linked to improved mental wellbeing and reduced stress. Mindfulness means practicing being fully present while doing one thing at a time, rather than being pulled away by thoughts, memories or worries.

This involves awareness of your thoughts, emotions, breathing, bodily sensations, sensory experiences, behaviours and surroundings. For example, when you are drinking a cup of tea, focus on savouring the tea and being aware of your whole body and mental experience.

Importantly, practice being present away from screens, including smart phones, computers and TV. It is almost impossible to practice mindfulness with a screen disturbing you, the break will do wonders for your mental health too!

Breathing relaxation

A range of breathing relaxation techniques can help relieve symptoms of stress, worry and anxiety. I personally like a variant of the ‘Deep Breathing’ technique, which anyone can practice anywhere, anytime!

While sitting or standing, allow your chest to expand, take a deep inhalation through your nose to your abdomen, hold it for five counts then slowly release your breath by exhaling through your nose. Repeat this three to five times.

Caffeine in moderation

Caffeine can increase anxiety levels in some people, and it also interferes with our body’s natural rest/wake cycle. It would be helpful to keep caffeine intake to a moderate level and avoid caffeine at night.

Be kind to yourself

Have realistic expectations of yourself amongst the many roles you have. Life gets extremely busy whether you work full time, are a stay-at-home parent, a carer, a partner, worker, son/daughter, friend etc.

The everyday juggle can be extremely stressful and overwhelming and sometimes we need to stop, take a breather and acknowledge we are trying the best we can with what we have. This reduces unnecessary negative mental loads, including excessive shame, guilt, blame and pressure.

Avoid unhealthy habits, maintain a healthy lifestyle and self-care routine

Limit alcohol consumption, eat a well-balanced diet, sleep well and as mentioned earlier, exercise regularly.

Do things for yourself! Whether it’s a hobby or connecting with your friends, self-care is extremely important for our overall wellbeing so we need to treat it like any other appointment. We wouldn’t skip the dentist or a GP appointment, so we shouldn’t skip our self-care.

Seek professional support where needed

Sometimes in life, problems arise which can feel suffocating. Seeking help from a friend, family member or professional can significantly improve our mental health.

We know that stress is part of being human and is unavoidable. Research shows that stress can definitely cause increased risk of stroke and other serious health complications.

As mentioned, there are ways you can reduce the risk factors and The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Stroke is here to support if you or a loved one has difficulties managing stress and/or other mental health and wellbeing challenges.