Stroke: Reducing the Risk

What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when blood flow to part of the brain is suddenly slowed or stopped. The part of the brain that loses its blood supply may be damaged and stop working. You may have trouble using the part of the body that is controlled by the injured part of the brain.

What increases the risk for stroke?

You are more likely to have a stroke if you have a medical condition that puts a strain on your heart and blood vessels, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Heart rhythm or heart valve problems
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Sleep apnea

Some unhealthy lifestyle habits can increase your risk for a stroke. You are more likely to have a stroke if you:

  • Smoke.
  • Eat an unhealthy diet.
  • Are overweight.
  • Don’t get enough exercise.
  • Use illegal drugs or too much alcohol.

How can I lower my risk for a stroke?

Some of the risks for a stroke cannot be prevented, such as age, race, and family history. Other risks, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease can be controlled with the help of your healthcare provider.

  • Take all prescribed medicines carefully, following your provider’s instructions. Check with your healthcare provider before taking nonprescription medicines, supplements, or natural remedies.
  • If you have heart disease, follow your treatment plan.
  • If you have diabetes, keep good control of your blood sugar.
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to do this.

Lifestyle changes can also help prevent a stroke:

  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in sodium (salt) and saturated and trans-fat and includes at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Try to keep a healthy weight. If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Stay fit with the right kind of exercise for you.
  • Learn ways to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • If you smoke, try to quit. Talk with your provider ways to quit smoking.
  • If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink.
  • If you abuse drugs, get help to stop.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you should take a daily aspirin. Because it’s not right for everyone, taking a daily aspirin is something you should do only after talking with your provider. Aspirin can make some types of stroke worse. With your provider, you can decide if the benefits of aspirin outweigh the risks.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-05-28
Last reviewed: 2014-05-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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