Reducing Your Risk of Stroke

You may be able to reduce your risk of stroke by making changes to modifiable risk factors.

General Guidelines for Preventing Stroke

Do Not Smoke; If You Smoke, Quit

Extensive research has established smoking as a risk factor for stroke and heart attack.

Eat a Healthful Diet

A diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body weight—three stroke risk factors. Ask your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for a balanced meal plan.

Exercise Regularly

Follow your doctor’s recommendations for physical activity. Choose exercises you enjoy and will make a regular part of your day. Strive to maintain an exercise program that keeps you fit and at a healthy weight. For most people, this could include walking briskly or participating in another aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes per day.

Take Medications as Directed

High blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels increase your risk of having a stroke. Take blood pressure and cholesterol medications as directed by your healthcare provider.

Lose Weight, If You Are Overweight or Obese

Being overweight or obese is associated with higher risk of stroke, and losing weight lowers that risk. To lose weight, consume fewer calories than you expend. To maintain a healthy weight , eat an equal number of calories as you expend.

Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation

Excessive alcohol intake raises your risk of stroke, but it appears that moderate alcohol intake actually reduces the risk. Studies have determined that one to two drinks a day can be beneficial to your cardiovascular system. Experts agree that if you do not already drink alcohol, you don’t need to start because of this recommendation. If you do drink alcohol, talk with your healthcare provider to determine how much is healthy for you.

Take Aspirin If Recommended by Your Healthcare Provider

Aspirin can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. It reduces stroke risk by about 25% due to its ability to inhibit blood clotting. Aspirin is not a good choice for you if you have bleeding problems, aspirin allergies, peptic ulcers, or any other specific reasons you should not take aspirin. Before you begin taking aspirin, talk with your heathcare provider about any possible risks.

Manage Blood Sugar if You Have Diabetes

If you have diabetes you are at increased risk of vascular disease. The tighter you control your blood sugar levels, the slower vascular disease (and other complications) will advance. Work with your doctor and a registered dietitian to develop a diet and exercise plan that will help you control your blood sugar. Your doctor may recommend that you take new or additional medications to help you maintain tighter control of your blood sugars.

References:

American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1200000 .

The Aspirin Foundation website. Available at: http://www.aspirin-foundation.com/ .

Kasper DL, Braunwald E, Fauci A, Hauser S, Longo D, Jameson JL. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 16th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2004.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence website. Available at: http://www.ncaddnj.org/ .



Last reviewed May 2007 by J. Thomas Megerian, MD, PhD, FAAP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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