Stroke & Dementia in Black Men: 11 Ways to Thrive, Survive and Manage Risks 
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Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke

Stroke is a leading cause of death and long-term disability, with nearly 800,000 Americans having a stroke each year. Making matters worse, Black men are at substantially higher risk for high blood pressure and strokes, according to medical experts. Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure, especially in mid-life, can damage blood vessels and lead to a stroke. High blood pressure can also lead to other damage in the brain that has been associated with dementia. 

The good news is people can take steps now to get their blood pressure numbers into a healthy range—or keep their numbers in a healthy range—to help prevent stroke and dementia later in life. World Stroke Day falls on Oct. 29, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is raising awareness of this important topic and sharing tips to help manage the risks.

Here are 11 steps you can take to manage risks for stroke and dementia:

Know Your Blood Pressure Numbers

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers. The first number, your systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number, your diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. If the measurement reads 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, you would say, “120 over 80,” or write, “120/80 mm Hg.” If left unchecked, high blood pressure can damage the cells of your arteries’ inner lining and cause a hardening called arteriosclerosis, blocking blood flow to your heart, brain, and kidneys, as well as to your muscles. Keep in mind that your blood pressure changes throughout the day based on your activities.

  • Normal Blood Pressure for Most Adults: Less than 120/80 mm HG
  • High Blood Pressure for Most Adults: 130 or higher/80 or higher mm HG

Stay Informed

Discuss high blood pressure with your healthcare provider. Use this guide to talk to your healthcare provider about your risks and ways to manage your blood pressure to help prevent stroke and dementia. Then, make a plan together and stick with it.

Take Your Medications

Your healthcare provider may recommend taking medicine daily to prevent stroke and heart attack, especially if you have high blood pressure.

Quit Smoking or Using Tobacco

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including the heart. Any amount of smoking, even light or occasional smoking, damages the heart and blood vessels. 

Manage Cholesterol Levels

Reducing your cholesterol will lower your risk for developing a wide variety of serious health issues, including stroke and heart disease.

Exercise and Eat Healthy Foods

Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, cut down on fried foods and use less salt. Get in about 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling every day. Following a healthy eating plan and keeping physically active on a regular basis will significantly lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and other chronic and debilitating health problems.

Manage Diabetes

Having diabetes or pre-diabetes puts you at increased risk for stroke and heart disease. You can lower your risk by keeping your blood glucose (also called blood sugar), blood pressure, and blood cholesterol close to the recommended target numbers provided by your healthcare provider.

Avoid Illicit Drugs and Misusing Alcohol

Generally, an increase in alcohol consumption leads to an increase in blood pressure. The use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, can cause stroke.

Get Enough Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep every night is important for good heart and brain health. Adults should aim for an average of 7-9 hours, and babies and kids need more depending on their age. 

Stick to the Plan

This is the hard part, but keeping your heart and brain healthy can lead to better overall health as you age. 

Start Early

Preventing stroke and heart disease is more effective if started in midlife. Studies also find that controlling blood pressure may also reduce the risk of dementia.

These simple and effective lifestyle changes can reduce your chance of all types of stroke, heart disease and dementia later in life. Taking charge of your health now can help avoid unnecessary risks and keep blood pressure under control.

For more tips and information, visit the Mind Your Risks® website at