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Drop Your Blood Pressure

If your blood pressure is 135/85 or higher, your risk for ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes rises dramatically. "If everyone with high blood pressure lowered it, the number of strokes would drop by 40 to 50 percent," says Mark J. Alberts, MD, director of the stroke program at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. But only one in four people with high blood pressure has it under control.


How it raises stroke risk: Fast-moving blood makes the arteries in the brain thicken and eventually squeeze shut. High blood pressure also makes arteries clog with plaque more quickly and can pummel the small arteries inside the brain until they rupture, causing a hemorrhagic stroke.

Get your number: Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, or take advantage of a free blood pressure screening at a local supermarket or mall. If your blood pressure is 135/85 or higher, try a lower-fat diet with a minimum of five fruits and veggies, seven or eight servings of whole grains, and two or three servings of low-fat dairy products a day; exercise regularly; and work with your doctor to get regular screenings and evaluation for blood pressure-lowering medications.

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