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Reducing stroke risk in middle-aged women

August 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new study shows middle-aged women suffering with depression are almost twice as likely to have a stroke. Here's what you can do to cut your odds.

Keven Bellows vowed to take better care of herself after losing her husband to Alzheimer's disease.

"I thought if there was anything I can do to prevent that from happening to me, I want to take advantage of it," said Bellows.

She took her first step to a healthier lifestyle with the help of her newly adopted dog "Ragamuffin." Studies show women who walk three hours a week lower their risk for stroke by 43 percent.

"There have been a number of studies that show that physical exercise may be the key to preserving healthy brain function," said UCLA psychiatry professor Dr. David Merrill.

Another way to cut your stroke risk is to watch your diet.

"Nutrition is really central," said Bellows. Diets filled with olive oil and potassium-rich foods like bananas can lower your risk by 20 percent. Quitting smoking and keeping cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels can also help. "The better control you have over the modifiable risk factors, the lower your stroke risk will be," said Merrill. High stress levels and anger can cause thickening of the neck arteries, which can also lead to stroke.

"I am pretty good about stress reduction because I am a meditator," said Bellows. "So I meditate on a daily basis."

Doctors also urge you to monitor your headaches. Research shows women who suffer from migraines are at an increased risk of stroke.

And finally, think "FAST" to recognize stroke symptoms:

"F" for face: watch for an uneven smile or numbness. "A" for arms and legs, which can become numb or paralyzed. "S" is for speech: It could be slurred or confusing. "T" is for time: you don't have much of it. If you suspect a stroke, call 911 because every second of time lost is brain lost.


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