It is reported that around 10,000 people in the UAE suffer a stroke each year, with around 50% of these patients being under the age of 45 – while the average global age for stroke patients is 65.
There are several factors linked to an increased risk of stroke. Some of these, like age, gender and genetics, are out of your control. Others such as smoking, fitness and weight are not.
Why your weight matters
If you are overweight or obese, you’re more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and low levels of “good” cholesterol levels. These conditions are independent risk factors and all increase your risk of stroke.
High blood pressure is of particular concern, as it is the leading cause of strokes. Diabetes, meanwhile, raises your risk by two and half times.
Additionally, if you are obese or overweight, the excess fatty tissue you are carrying can lead to inflammation. In turn, this can cause “furring up” and narrowing of important blood vessels, as well as affecting the blood itself, making it more likely to form clots.
These factors could potentially create a blockage in a blood vessel. If this blood vessel is responsible for carrying blood to part of your brain, then you could suffer an ischemic stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke. Being overweight also increases the risk of bleeding into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke) but to a lesser extent.
As your weight increases, so does your stroke risk, therefore being obese makes you more susceptible to an attack than being overweight. Similarly, if you are overweight you have a greater stroke risk than someone of a healthy weight.
Feeding other risk factors
Unfortunately, it isn’t just these conditions that become more likely with obesity. High blood cholesterol and sleep apnea, where breathing becomes disrupted or irregular during sleep, can also be caused by carrying excessive weight, and again, bring an increased risk of stroke.
Such is the relationship between obesity and these secondary conditions that isn’t unusual to suffer from more than one of them at the same time. For example, if you are obese and have diabetes, then there is an increased likelihood that you may also have high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.
Managing your weight
If you are obese or overweight, then you should talk to your doctor about how you can lose weight. In doing so, you will help to reduce your risk of suffering a stroke, as well as of developing other conditions which could trigger a stroke.
These tips can help to get you started:
- Switch to a healthy diet: One that is low in fat, especially saturated fats, high in fiber and packed with lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts and oily fish. Item #2
- Reduce portion sizes: Something as simple as swapping to a smaller plate can help you to cut back on how much you eat at each meal.
- Ditch the take-outs and processed foods: Preparing your own food allows you to control exactly what you’re eating and how it is cooked. It’s worth considering that processed foods are reported to account for around 75% of total sodium consumed.
- Go easy on salt: Too much salt could raise your blood pressure, so use it sparsely and avoid foods that are high in salt by checking their labels.
- Start exercising: Begin by walking and then increase the intensity and variety of your exercise. Also look for ways to be active in your daily life – swap the elevator for the stairs or park your car further away. Aim for around 30 minutes of activity each day.
- Take professional advice: Alongside your doctor, a nutritionist and fitness instructor can help you to create eating and fitness plans that are achievable and help to keep you motivated.