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The drooping of one side of the face, slurred speech and numbness on one side of the body – these are but some of the classic symptoms of a stroke. Such attacks occur without warning – blood supply to a part of the brain is suddenly cut off or severely reduced, causing brain cells to die off – and may be lethal. According to the Ministry of Health, strokes are the fourth leading cause of death (behind cancer, heart disease and pneumonia) in Singapore. Start saving yourself from becoming a stroke stat with these simple tips.
1. Eat more leafy greens
… or whole grains, pumpkin seeds, coffee and nuts – because they are rich in magnesium. The mineral may help to regulate blood pressure and ward off stroke, say experts. A bonus: You can also beat migraines when you’ve adequate magnesium in your diet.
2. Enhance your sleep
Find your preferred method of enhancing your sleep, be it having a glass of warm milk, or even lighting a jasmine-scented candle before bedtime. Insufficient, or restless, sleep ups your odds of a stroke. Men who lit a jasmine-scented candle for just one minute before bed fell asleep faster, tossed and turned less, and felt more refreshed in the morning than those who didn’t inhale the aroma, report scientists at Wheeling Jesuit University in the US.
3. Soak your toothbrush in antiseptic mouthwash
The bacteria living on your toothbush can also cause thickening of the heart’s carotid arteries, a precursor to strokes, says researchers at Columbia University and the University of Minnesota. So, submerge your toothbrush’s bristles in a glass of antiseptic mouth rinse after brushing. Researchers at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio found that 100 per cent of Candida albicans (a yeast-like fungus responsible for oral disease) were neutralised 105 minutes after submersion.
4. Use a hands-free set
Use a hands-free headset or alternate the ear you hold the phone to with every call: Holding the phone between your head and shoulder raises your risk of spinal-nerve compression and even a “mini stroke”, reports the journal Neurology. A 43-year-old Frenchman suffered a stroke after taking an hour-long call by cradling the phone, says the report. He had ruptured the artery that supplies the brain and eyes with blood. Yes, that unfortunate guy may be an anomaly. But why not make use of readily-available technology to reduce the risk of stroke?
5. Drink milk daily
Drinking two to three glasses of milk a day, whether it’s skim or whole, lowers the likelihood of stroke – a finding confirmed by British scientists. If you’re dieting, the lower-fat option is an easier way to save calories. If you want to ward off stroke – and build muscle – go for whole milk. Scientists at the University of Texas found that whole milk boosts muscle-protein synthesis.
6. Eat more salmon
People who eat fatty fish, such as salmon, three or more times a week have a 27 per cent lower chance of developing brain lesions associated with stroke and cognitive decline, say researchers in Cincinnati in the US. Salmon also contains the brain-balm omega 3s – which helps tame your neurotic tendencies.
7. Control your temper
Men who frequently express anger are twice as likely to have a stroke than those who control their temper, according to the journal Stroke. Can’t control your rage? Soothe it with fish oil. It’s packed with DHA, which the US National Institute of Health found aggressive men are short of.
8. Quit smoking
Quit, and within 15 years, your risk of stroke and heart attack is equal to a person who has never smoked, says JoAnn Taylor, Deputy Director, Substance Abuse, Adult Health Division from the Health Promotion Board. Yes, 15 years is a long wait. But the benefits of quitting are immediate and obvious: “Within eight hours, the carbon monoxide level drops in your body and the oxygen level in your blood increases to normal. Within two days, your chance of a heart attack decreases and within three days, you feel more energised and breathing becomes easier,” adds Taylor.
9. Get your eyes checked regularly
Your eyes are windows – to the present state of your body. So even if your vision is fine, have your eyes checked regularly. Plaque from a clogged carotied artery can break off and travel to your retinal blood vessels – a warning sign that you’re at risk of a stroke, says Dr Kimberly Cockerham, an associate professor of ophthalmology. Your eye specialist will be able to point out such a risk quickly.