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Stroke Prevention


Stroke prevention

includes making lifestyle changes and managing health conditions that can lead to a stroke. Your healthcare provider can help you create a plan that will be specific to your needs.

Know your risk for a stroke:

You cannot control some risk factors. Examples are being older than 55 or African American, or having a family history of stroke. You can take action for any of the following risk factors:

  • A personal history of transient ischemic attack (TIA)
  • Diabetes or high cholesterol
  • Atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, or heart disease
  • Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or using drugs such as cocaine
  • Obesity or not enough physical activity
  • Taking birth control pills, especially in women older than 35 who smoke cigarettes

Lifestyle changes that can help prevent a stroke:

  • Stay active. Aim to get physical activity for 30 minutes a day, on most days of the week. You can break activity into 10 minute periods, 3 times during the day. Activity can lower your risk for problems that can lead to a stroke. Activity can control you blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar levels. Find an exercise that you enjoy. This will make it easier for you to reach your exercise goals.
    Walking for Exercise
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Choose foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar. Eat foods that are high in potassium, such as potatoes and bananas. A dietitian can help you create healthy meal plans.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for a stroke. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him or her to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight. He or she can help you create small goals if you have a lot of weight to lose.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about alcohol. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure. The recommended limit is 2 drinks in a day for men and 1 drink in a day for women. Do not binge drink or save a week's worth of alcohol to drink in 1 or 2 days. Limit weekly amounts as directed by your provider.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung and heart damage. Heart and lung damage can increase your risk for a stroke. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not use illegal drugs. Cocaine and other illegal drugs can cause a stroke. Talk to your healthcare provider if you currently use illegal drugs and need help to quit.
  • Manage stress. Stress can raise your blood pressure. Find ways to relax, such as deep breathing or listening to music.

Manage health conditions that can lead to a stroke:

  • Manage your blood pressure (BP):
    • Get regular BP screening. Screening can help find high BP early to lower your risk for a stroke. Your healthcare provider will give you directions to lower and control your BP.
      Blood Pressure Readings
    • Check your BP as directed. You can monitor your blood pressure at home. Ask your healthcare provider how often to check your blood pressure and what your blood pressure should be. Tell your healthcare provider if your blood pressure is higher than what he or she says it should be. He or she may need to change your medicine or help you make changes to your nutrition or exercise plan.
      How to take a Blood Pressure
  • Manage diabetes. Good control of your blood sugar levels may decrease your risk for a stroke. If you take diabetes medicine or insulin, take it as directed. Healthy foods and regular exercise also help lower your blood sugar levels. Monitor your levels as directed. Keep a record of your blood sugar levels and bring them to your appointments. This will help your healthcare provider make changes to your medicines. It may also help you find ways to get better control of your diabetes.
    How to check your blood sugar
  • Manage sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can cause stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, heart failure, or heart rhythm problems. Get screened and treated for sleep apnea. Talk to your healthcare provider about devices that help prevent complications from sleep apnea. You may need to use a CPAP or BiPAP machine while you sleep. These machines increase your oxygen levels and keep your airway open.
  • Manage other medical conditions that increase your risk for a stroke. Atrial fibrillation (a-fib) is an abnormal heart rhythm that can cause blood clots. Medicines or procedures may be used to control a-fib. Sickle cell disease, or sickle cell anemia, can cause blockages in blood vessels. The blockages may need to be removed during surgery. Depression and anxiety can stress your heart. Stress may lead to high blood pressure or heart disease. Talk to your healthcare provider about treatment for depression or anxiety.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about risk factors for women. Birth control pills increase your risk, especially if you are older than 35 or smoke cigarettes. Talk to your healthcare provider about other forms of contraception. Estrogen levels drop during menopause. Low estrogen levels may increase your risk for stroke. Talk to your healthcare provider about hormone replacement therapy to reduce your risk for a stroke.

Follow up with your doctor or neurologist as directed:

You may need a CT or MRI of your brain to check for problems that may cause a stroke. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

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