Many in the medical community now use the phrase “brain attack” in place of “stroke.” That’s because strokes have lots in common with heart attacks.

A heart attack happens when an artery that delivers blood to the heart becomes blocked. Deprived of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood, heart tissue begins to die. Immediate treatment is needed to prevent extensive damage to the heart.

Re-read that paragraph and exchange the word “heart” for “brain.” You are now describing a stroke, or brain attack. Like your heart, your brain is fueled by the oxygen and nutrients delivered by the blood. The most common form of stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes clogged.

A severe stroke can permanently destroy massive numbers of brain cells. When brain cells die, abilities controlled by that area of the brain – language, memory, muscle control – are affected. Some people recover completely from brain attack, but more than two-thirds of survivors have some type of disability.

How to Manage Your Risk for Brain Attack

While you can’t rollback the years or change your family history – both of which increase your risk for stroke – Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) providers say the single best way to reduce your risk for brain attack is to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can double or even quadruple your risk for brain attack.

What is normal blood pressure? Less than 120 over 80 (120/80) is considered normal, according to the American Stroke Association.

If your blood pressure is above the normal range, talk to your healthcare provider immediately. Here are some strategies YRMC recommends to get your numbers under control:

  • Reduce your salt intake to no more than a half teaspoon a day.
  • Avoid high-cholesterol foods. Sorry folks that means burgers, cheese and ice cream.
  • Get to a healthy weight if you’re overweight. Losing even 10 pounds can have a positive impact on your stroke risk.
  • Eat a diet that includes four to five cups of fruits and vegetables every day, one serving of fish two to three times a week and several daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes day, and more, if possible.
  • Give up tobacco, if you smoke.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation. Studies show that more than two alcoholic drinks per day sharply increases your risk for brain attack.

Want to monitor your blood pressure between appointments with your YRMC healthcare provider? You may want to invest in a home blood pressure monitor kit. Pharmacies that have blood pressure monitors often include that information on their websites.