While everyone is at risk for stroke, you have the power to help protect yourself. Start by following the 10 tips listed here, getting regular checkups and treatment for any existing conditions, and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
10 tips to reduce your risk of stroke
- Control high blood pressure (hypertension). Know your numbers and keep them low.
- Quit tobacco. Smoking raises the risk of stroke.
- Control diabetes. You can manage diabetes with diet, exercise, weight control and medication.
- Manage a healthy weight. Being overweight contributes to other stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Weight loss of as little as 10 pounds may lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. A diet containing five or more daily servings of fruits or vegetables may reduce your risk of stroke.
- Exercise. Exercise can lower your blood pressure, increase your level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and improve the overall health of your blood vessels and heart. It also helps you lose weight, control diabetes and reduce stress.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Heavy alcohol consumption increases your risk of high blood pressure, ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes.
- Treat obstructive sleep apnea, if present. Your health care provider may recommend an overnight oxygen assessment to screen for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If obstructive sleep apnea is detected, it may be treated by giving you oxygen at night or having you wear a small device in your mouth.
- Avoid illicit drugs. Certain street drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, are established risk factors for a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke.
- Manage other medical conditions. If you have any of these conditions, seek treatment to help reduce your risk of stroke: high cholesterol, carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease, atrial fibrillation (AFib), heart disease or sickle cell disease.
Some people are at greater risk, but anyone can have a stroke.
While you can’t control these risk factors, knowing about them can help you focus more on the factors you are able to change:
- Age — Although stroke is more common among the elderly, people under 65 — including babies and children — can also have strokes.
- Gender — Each year, stroke kills more women than men. Factors that may increase stroke risks for women include pregnancy, gestational diabetes, history of pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, oral contraceptive use, smoking and post-menopausal hormone therapy.
- Race — African-Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians.
- Family history — If your parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke, especially before age 65, you may be at a greater risk.
- Prior stroke, TIA or heart attack — A person who has had any of these before is at a much higher risk of having another stroke.
- Other risk factors — Other factors often linked to higher stroke risks include living in the southeastern U.S., having a lower income, drug and alcohol abuse, and not maintaining healthy sleep habits.