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Jul.19.2021
 Stroke Prevention

Stroke Prevention

Some medical conditions and behaviors can lead to a higher chance of having a stroke. You can help prevent a stroke by eating healthy, exercising, not smoking, and managing any medical conditions you have.

Stroke is a leading cause of functional impairment. Primary prevention is particularly important because a majority of strokes are first-time events. Stroke changes the lives of not only those who experience a stroke but also their family and other caregivers.

How can this condition affect me?

A stroke is a medical emergency and should be treated right away. A stroke can lead to brain damage and can sometimes be life-threatening. If a person gets medical treatment right away, there is a better chance of surviving and recovering from a stroke.

What can increase my risk?

The following medical conditions may increase your risk of a stroke:
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Diabetes.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Sickle cell disease.
  • Blood clotting disorders (hypercoagulable state).
  • Obesity.
  • Sleep disorders (obstructive sleep apnea).

Other risk factors include:
  • Being older than age 60.
  • Having a history of blood clots, stroke, or mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack, TIA).
  • Genetic factors, such as race, ethnicity, or a family history of stroke.
  • Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products.
  • Taking birth control pills, especially if you also use tobacco.
  • Heavy use of alcohol or drugs, especially cocaine and methamphetamine.
  • Physical inactivity.

What actions can I take to prevent this?

Manage your health conditions

  • High cholesterol levels.
    • Eating a healthy diet is important for preventing high cholesterol. If cholesterol cannot be managed through diet alone, you may need to take medicines.
    • Take any prescribed medicines to control your cholesterol as told by your health care provider.
  • Hypertension.
    • To reduce your risk of stroke, try to keep your blood pressure below 130/80.
    • Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are important for controlling blood pressure. If these steps are not enough to manage your blood pressure, you may need to take medicines.
    • Take any prescribed medicines to control hypertension as told by your health care provider.
    • Ask your health care provider if you should monitor your blood pressure at home.
    • Have your blood pressure checked every year, even if your blood pressure is normal. Blood pressure increases with age and some medical conditions.
  • Diabetes.
    • Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are important parts of managing your blood sugar (glucose). If your blood sugar cannot be managed through diet and exercise, you may need to take medicines.
    • Take any prescribed medicines to control your diabetes as told by your health care provider.
  • Get evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea. Talk to your health care provider about getting a sleep evaluation if you snore a lot or have excessive sleepiness.
  • Make sure that any other medical conditions you have, such as atrial fibrillation or atherosclerosis, are managed.

Nutrition

Follow instructions from your health care provider about what to eat or drink to help manage your health condition. These instructions may include:
  • Reducing your daily calorie intake.
  • Limiting how much salt (sodium) you use to 1,500 milligrams (mg) each day.
  • Using only healthy fats for cooking, such as olive oil, canola oil, or sunflower oil.
  • Eating healthy foods. You can do this by:
    • Choosing foods that are high in fiber, such as whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Try to fill one-half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.
    • Choosing lean protein foods, such as lean cuts of meat, poultry without skin, fish, tofu, beans, and nuts.
    • Eating low-fat dairy products.
  • Avoiding foods that are high in sodium. This can help lower blood pressure.
  • Avoiding foods that have saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. This can help prevent high cholesterol.
  • Avoiding processed and prepared foods.
  • Counting your daily carbohydrate intake.

Lifestyle

  • If you drink alcohol:
    • Limit how much you have to:
      • 0–1 drink a day for women who are not pregnant.
      • 0–2 drinks a day for men.
    • Know how much alcohol is in your drink. In the U.S., one drink equals one 12 oz bottle of beer (355mL), one 5 oz glass of wine (148mL), or one 1½ oz glass of hard liquor (44mL).
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco. These products include cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping devices, such as e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Do not use drugs.

Activity

  • Try to stay at a healthy weight.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, such as:
    • Fast walking.
    • Biking.
    • Swimming.

Medicines

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider. Aspirin or blood thinners (antiplatelets or anticoagulants) may be recommended to reduce your risk of forming blood clots that can lead to stroke.
  • Avoid taking birth control pills. Talk to your health care provider about the risks of taking birth control pills if:
    • You are over 35 years old.
    • You smoke.
    • You get very bad headaches.
    • You have had a blood clot.

Where to find more information

Get help right away if:

  • You or a loved one has 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.
  • You or a loved one has 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.

Summary

  • You can help to prevent a stroke by eating healthy, exercising, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and managing any medical conditions you may have.
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco. These include cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping devices, such as e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
  • Remember "BE FAST" for warning signs of a stroke. Get help right away if you or a loved one has any of these signs.

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.

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