KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – World Stroke Day is observed on October 29, and to create awareness around stroke risk, the Knoxville American Heart Association is offering resources and information. Stroke is often thought of as something that happens to older people, but more people under fifty are having strokes, due to increased risky behaviors, such as smoking and untreated high blood pressure.  

Strokes don’t discriminate. They can happen to anyone, at any age – and about one in four people worldwide will have one in their lifetime. In Knox County, stroke is the No. 5 cause of death. The good news? Up to 80 percent of first strokes may be prevented.  

Healthy habits can protect and improve brain function and lower stroke risk. These simple suggestions are great for everyone to follow, even if you don’t think you’re likely to have a stroke.

Here are five tips to reduce your risk of stroke and maintain mental sharpness as you age: 

  1. Keep blood pressure in mind and under control. Get your blood pressure into a healthy range (under 130/80). High blood pressure is the number one controllable risk factor for stroke. Work with your doctor to manage it.  
  2. Eat colorful fruits and veggies. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower blood pressure over time, which can help reduce your stroke risk. Some fruits and vegetables are especially rich in vitamins and minerals that improve brain function and heart health – try mangoes, avocados, and blueberries. 
  3. Rest up. Getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night can improve brain function both today and long-term. Make it happen with a soothing bedtime routine and avoid screen time before bed. Sleep-related breathing issues may increase stroke risk, so seek treatment right away if you suspect sleep apnea or a similar problem. 
  4. Meditate. Emerging science shows that practicing mindfulness and being aware of your breathing may significantly reduce blood pressure and may improve blood flow to the brain. A quick way to be mindful anytime is to pause, notice your breath and take in little details in your surroundings.  
  5. Take a walk. Getting active activates brain cells, encouraging them to grow and connect more efficiently. For clear health benefits, adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of those activities). In addition, two days per week of moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening activity is recommended. · For more information, visit www.stroke.org