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includes a number of ways that you can decrease your risk for a stroke. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for stroke. Create a plan with him or her to decrease your risk.
Know your risk factors:
The following are risk factors for a stroke:
- Age greater than 55 or being African-American
- A family history of stroke or heart attack, or a personal history of transient ischemic attacks (TIA)
- Diabetes or high cholesterol
- Atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, or heart disease
- Smoking cigarettes, excessive use of alcohol, or using drugs such as cocaine
- Not enough physical activity, or obesity
- Taking birth control pills, especially in women older than 35 who smoke cigarettes
Physical activity for 30 minutes most days of the week can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar levels. It can also reduce your risk for a stroke. Find an exercise that you enjoy. This will make it easier for you to exercise every day. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
Follow a heart healthy diet:
A heart healthy diet may help control your blood pressure, and prevent atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease. It may also help you manage your weight and blood sugar levels. A heart healthy diet is an eating plan low in total fat, unhealthy fats, and sodium (salt). Limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg each day. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about a heart healthy diet.
Maintain a healthy weight:
Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for a stroke. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh.
Heavy alcohol use can increase your risk for a stroke. Ask your healthcare provider if it is okay for you to drink alcohol. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
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:
The use of cocaine and other illegal drugs can cause a stroke. Talk to your healthcare provider if you currently use cocaine or other drugs and need help to quit.
Manage a heart condition:
Management of your blood pressure and heart conditions may reduce your risk for a stroke. Atrial fibrillation (a-fib), an abnormal heart rhythm, can cause blood clots. Blood clots may happen in your brain and cause a stroke. You may need to do the following to manage your blood pressure or heart conditions:
- Medicine may be needed to lower your blood pressure, prevent blood clots, or control abnormal heart rhythms. You may also need medicine to lower your cholesterol. Talk to your healthcare provider about a daily aspirin or blood thinner to reduce your risk for a blood clot.
- Regular blood pressure screening will help reduce your risk for stroke. 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.
- Surgery and other procedures may be needed to remove blockages in your blood vessels and improve blood flow to your heart or brain. Procedures may also be needed to treat a-fib.
Manage sleep apnea:
Sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, heart failure, arrhythmias, heart attack, and stroke. Get screened and treated for sleep apnea. Screening and treatment for sleep apnea may reduce your risk for stroke and other health problems. Talk to your healthcare provider about devices that help prevent complications from sleep apnea. You may need to use a special machine during sleep. The machine will increase your oxygen levels and keep your airways open.
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. A healthy diet and exercise also help lower your blood sugar levels. Monitor your blood sugars 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.
Stroke risk factors for women:
- The use of birth control pills may increase your risk for a stroke. Smoking while taking birth control pills may also increase your risk for a stroke. 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.
Talk to your healthcare provider about other medical conditions:
Other medical conditions such as anxiety, depression, and sickle cell disease, can increase your risk for a stroke. Depression and anxiety can cause stress on your heart. This may lead to high blood pressure or heart disease. Sickle cell disease, or sickle cell anemia, can cause blockages in blood vessels. If these blockages happen in the blood vessels in your brain, it may cause a stroke. Talk to your healthcare provider about how you can manage these health conditions and decrease 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 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.
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