Most strokes are preventable. The National Stroke Association publishes a set of guidelines you can use to help prevent stroke. You should always ask your doctor about how to use these guidelines.
Know your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke. Have it checked annually. If it is elevated, work with your doctor to keep it under control. If your doctor decides you have high blood pressure, he or she may recommend some changes in your diet, regular exercise, or medicine. Do not make changes to your diet, exercise or medicine routines without talking to your doctor first.
Find out if you have atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that changes how your heart works and allows blood to collect in the chambers of your heart. This can lead to blood clots, which, if moved through the arteries by the heart, can lead to stroke. Your doctor can help you determine if you have atrial fibrillation, and may chose to lower your risk with medication.
If you smoke, stop. Smoking doubles your risk for stroke. Quitting today immediately reduces your risk.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day can increase your risk for stroke by as much as three times, and also lead to liver disease, accidents and more. Remember that alcohol is a drug and can interact with some medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medicines you are taking could interact with alcohol.
Find out if you have high cholesterol. A high level of “bad cholesterol” can mean build-up of plaque, which narrows the arteries and can limit or stop blood flow. Your cholesterol level can be inherited, or be a result of your body chemistry. It can also result from a diet high in saturated fats, lack of exercise or diabetes. Talk to your doctor about your cholesterol levels and what you can do to control them.
If you are diabetic, work with your doctor to control your condition. Often, diabetes can be controlled through careful attention to what you eat. Work with your doctor or a dietician to develop a healthy eating program, and create a healthy lifestyle to help control your diabetes.
Exercise. Make time each day to take care of your body by exercising – a brisk walk for as little as 30 minutes a day can improve your health in many ways, and may reduce your risk for stroke.
Eat healthy. Reducing the amount of sodium (salt) and fat in your meals may help you lower your blood pressure and lower your risk for stroke. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Adding fiber, such as whole grain bread, raw/unpeeled fruits and vegetables and dried beans, to your diet can reduce cholesterol levels.
Ask your doctor about circulation problems. Strokes can be caused by problems with your heart, arteries, veins or blood. Your doctor can check to see if you have problems with the circulation supplying blood to your brain.