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Many factors play into the likelihood an individual will have a heart attack or stroke. Certain genetic and uncontrollable factors such as age, sex, race or ethnicity may increase your likelihood of having a stroke. 

But, that doesn't mean there aren't steps you can take to decrease your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 80% of strokes could be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes.

Factors such as your nutrition, exercise, and sleep all impact your chances of having a stroke or heart attack. There are plenty of things you can and should do to lower your risks. Read below for some tips on how to decrease your chances of having a heart attack or stroke: 

Nutritious choices and healthy eating habits: Eating a healthy diet can contribute to your overall health while decreasing your chances of having a stroke. In a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, people who ate a diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, and poultry had a 20% lower risk of stroke. Eating a well-rounded diet and choosing healthy meal and snack options can help lower your risk for strokes and heart attacks, as well as heart disease.  

Increasing exercise and physical activity: Physical activity doesn't just help you keep those pounds off, it makes your heart healthier too. Getting up and burning some calories can help you lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. The Surgeon General recommends adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. But that doesn't mean you need to search for a gym membership or start training for a marathon. Try taking a brisk walk, some water aerobics, tennis, ballroom dancing or even gardening. 

Reducing stress: Improving physical fitness is important, but you should also consider exercising those mental muscles too. Improving your mental fitness and decreasing your stress levels is key to reducing your chances of having a stroke or a heart attack. Studies have shown that stressful habits and Type A behavior are associated with a higher risk of stroke. This is a result of heightened activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain which processes emotions and stress. Relaxation techniques such as meditation may be helpful, and you can also try spending more time with family and friends, picking up a new book, or listening to some music. 

Decreasing salt consumption: Eating too much salt can put you at risk for high blood pressure, which causes weakened arteries in the brain, putting you at a much higher risk for stroke. Even if you're not picking up the salt shaker, you may be filling up on sodium rich foods. That's because 70% of the sodium we eat comes from packaged and restaurant foods. To decrease salt consumption, consider eating more potassium rich foods, preparing your own meals and limiting the amount of instant and processed products you purchase. That way, you get to decide just how much salt is on your plate. 

Getting enough sleep: Getting some extra sleep might sound like a great way to increase your energy and boost your mood, but it's also a strategy to keep your heart healthy. In 2019, an American College of Cardiology study found that sleeping less than 6 hours a day may increase cardiovascular risk. Additionally, individuals who don't get enough sleep are more likely to say they have had health issues, including a heart attack. So get those recommended 7 hours of sleep each night. Not only will you likely feel healthier and happier, but your heart will thank you too. 

Quit Smoking: If you or an individual in your household smokes, you may want to consider the risks. Even if you are not the one smoking, exposure to second hand smoke may increase your risk of having a stroke by 20-30%. Quitting smoking might be difficult, but it may also significantly decrease your chances of having a stroke or heart attack. 

Prevention is key, but if you or a loved one suffers or has suffered from a stroke or a heart attack, Memorial Healthcare System can help connect you to the right resources so that you can get the quality health care that you need. Visit to learn more about how Memorial can help you care for your heart. 

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