Preventing Cerebrovascular Disease

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Preventing Cerebrovascular Disease

Preventing Cerebrovascular Disease

Cerebrovascular disease affects the arteries that supply the brain. Any condition that blocks or disrupts blood flow to the brain can cause cerebrovascular disease. When brain cells lose blood supply, they start to die within minutes, which results in a stroke. Stroke is the main danger of cerebrovascular disease. Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability.

Many conditions can cause cerebrovascular disease and stroke. Making diet and lifestyle changes to prevent these conditions lowers your risk of cerebrovascular disease.

How can making changes to prevent cerebrovascular disease affect me?

Making these changes lowers your risk of many conditions that can cause cerebrovascular disease and stroke, including:
  • Atherosclerosis. This is narrowing and hardening of an artery, which happens when fat, cholesterol, calcium, or other substances (plaque) build up inside an artery. Plaque reduces blood flow through the artery.
  • High blood pressure. This increases the risk of building up plaque in your arteries or bleeding inside the brain, which can lead to stroke.

By making these changes, you can also improve your overall health and quality of life.

What can increase my risk of developing cerebrovascular disease?

Certain factors make you more likely to develop cerebrovascular disease. Some of these factors are things that you cannot control, including:
  • Being over 65 years of age.
  • Being female. Strokes happen more often in women.
  • Family history. Having a parent or sibling who had a stroke before age 65 increases your risk of a stroke.
  • Having certain health conditions, such as:
    • Diabetes.
    • High blood pressure.
    • Heart disease.
    • Atherosclerosis.
    • High cholesterol.
    • Sleep apnea.
    • Sickle cell disease.
  • Having a personal history of transient ischemic attack or a prior stroke.

Other risk factors are things that you can control, including:
  • Being overweight.
  • Using tobacco products.
  • Not being physically active.
  • Eating a high-fat diet.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.

Talk with your health care provider about your risk for cerebrovascular disease. Work with your health care provider to manage any diseases that you have that may contribute to cerebrovascular disease. Your health care provider may prescribe medicines to help prevent major causes of cerebrovascular disease.

What actions can I take to prevent this?

General instructions

  • If directed by your health care provider, check your blood pressure regularly. Track your blood pressure and report the readings to your health care provider.
  • If you are overweight, ask your health care provider to recommend a weight-loss plan for you. Losing 5–10 lb (2.2–4.5 kg) can reduce your risk of diabetes, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure.


A plate with examples of foods in a healthy diet.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Reduce how much saturated fat you eat. To do this, eat less red meat and fewer full-fat dairy products.
  • Eat healthy proteins instead of red meat. Healthy proteins include:
    • Fish. Eat fish that contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat these twice a week. Examples include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, and herring.
    • Chicken and turkey.
    • Nuts and seeds.
    • Low-fat or nonfat yogurt.
  • Avoid precooked or cured meat, such as bacon, sausages, and meat loaves.
  • Avoid foods that contain:
    • A lot of sugar, such as sweets and drinks with added sugar.
    • A lot of salt (sodium). Avoid adding extra salt to your food, as told by your health care provider.
    • Trans fats (trans-fatty acids), such as margarine and fats in baked goods. Trans fats may be listed as "partially hydrogenated oils" on food labels.
  • Check food labels to see how much sodium, sugar, and trans fats are in foods.
  • Use vegetable oils that contain low amounts of saturated fat, such as olive oil or canola oil.


  • Exercise for 30‒60 minutes on most days, or as much as told by your health care provider. Do moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, bicycling, and water aerobics. Ask your health care provider which activities are safe for you.
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and chewing tobacco. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
  • Do not drink alcohol if:
    • Your health care provider tells you not to drink.
    • You are pregnant, may be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant.
  • If you drink alcohol:
    • Limit how much you use to:
      • 0–1 drink a day for women.
      • 0–2 drinks a day for men.
    • Be aware of how much alcohol is in your drink. In the U.S., one drink equals one 12 oz bottle of beer (355 mL), one 5 oz glass of wine (148 mL), or one 1½ oz glass of hard liquor (44 mL).

Where to find more information

Learn more about preventing cerebrovascular disease from:

Contact a health care provider if:

You develop any of the following symptoms:
  • Headaches that keep coming back (chronic headaches).
  • Nausea.
  • Vision problems.
  • Increased sensitivity to noise or light.
  • Depression or mood swings.
  • Anxiety or irritability.
  • Memory problems.
  • Difficulty concentrating or paying attention.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Feeling tired all the time.

Get help right away if you:

  • Have a partial or total loss of consciousness.
  • Are taking blood thinners and you fall or you experience a minor injury to the head.
  • Have a bleeding disorder and you fall or you experience minor trauma to the head.
  • Have any symptoms of a stroke. "BE FAST" is an easy way to remember the main warning signs of a stroke:
    • B - Balance. Signs are dizziness, sudden trouble walking, or loss of balance.
    • E - Eyes. Signs are trouble seeing or a sudden change in vision.
    • F - Face. Signs are sudden weakness or numbness of the face, or the face or eyelid drooping on one side.
    • A - Arms. Signs are weakness or numbness in an arm. This happens suddenly and usually on one side of the body.
    • S - Speech. Signs are sudden trouble speaking, slurred speech, or trouble understanding what people say.
    • T - Time. Time to call emergency services. Write down what time symptoms started.
  • Have other signs of a stroke, such as:
    • A sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Seizure.

These symptoms may represent a serious problem that is an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.). Do not drive yourself to the hospital.


  • Cerebrovascular disease is a condition that affects the arteries that supply the brain. Stroke is the main danger of cerebrovascular disease.
  • Common causes of cerebrovascular disease include atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
  • Making diet and lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of cerebrovascular disease.
  • Work with your health care provider to manage any diseases that you have that may contribute to cerebrovascular disease.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.