A stroke is a brain attack caused by blocked blood flow to the brain. It can affect a person’s speech, movement, and memory, and may lead to death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year. Stroke is a major cause of disability for adults and kills about one out of every 20 people each year.
Risk factors that may increase the possibility of having a stroke include smoking and drinking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. There are other risk factors that you can’t control, like being over age 65 and having a personal or family history of stroke.
Up to 80% of strokes may be prevented by:
- Taking advantage of these Medicare preventive services (in most cases, you’ll pay nothing for these services).
- Cardiovascular disease screening (includes blood test screening for cholesterol)
- Cardiovascular disease (behavioral therapy)
- Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
- Diabetes screenings and self-management training
- Nutrition therapy services and obesity screening and counseling
- Smoking and tobacco use cessation counseling (to stop smoking or using tobacco products)
Learn more about Medicare’s coverage of preventive services.
- Living a healthy lifestyle. For example, you should consider:
- Eating healthily. Choose foods low in salt, fat, and cholesterol. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
- Not smoking.
- Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink. Men should have no more than two drinks per day and women (who aren’t pregnant) should have no more than one drink per day.
There’s no way to know for sure what your chances are for having a stroke, but it’s good to know there are things you can do to lower your chances of having one. Talk to your doctor about other ways you can take small steps now to improve your health. If you’re new to Medicare, your doctor will give you information about all the free screenings and preventive services that are available to you at your “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit.