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FAQ (Health)

 Dr. George Jacob
Heart Infocenter



Common Sense Recommendations for Stroke

Measures that reduce the chances of stroke are the same as those for avoiding heart attack. Please refer to the techniques for improving cardiovascular health as well as to prevent heart attacks.

Adopt habits that promote cardiovascular health and deter atherosclerosis. The essentials of a healthy lifestyle include:

Eating foods that are low in fat, salt, and cholesterol
Exercising regularly
Controlling weight
Monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels regularly
Quit smoking is you already smoke. Don't smoke and avoid second hand smoke.

Here are some common sense recommendations for Stroke.

Keep your blood pressure under control

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the single most important factor in stroke risk. Keeping blood pressure below 140/90 can lower the risk of stroke by 75 to 85 percent. Between one-third and one-fourth of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure. High blood pressure responds well to a variety of drug and nondrug therapies. Check your blood pressure regularly (at least once per month.)

See High blood pressure (hypertension) for more about the risk of hypertension for stroke.

(See hypertension for information on treating high blood pressure.)

Stop smoking

Cigarette smokers have about a 60 percent higher risk of stroke compared to those who do not smoke. Smoking increases the risk of high blood pressure and the tendency to form blood clots, two factors closely associated with stroke. Virtually all of the excess risk associated with smoking can be eliminated within two or three years after quitting. Quit smoking is you already smoke. Don't smoke and avoid second hand smoke if you don't smoke now. Don't spend too much time in smoke filled rooms.

See: Cigarette smoking to learn more about the risk of smoking for stroke.

Stay active physically

Regular physical activity can reduce stroke risk. Evidence suggests that heavy workouts aren't necessary to get risk-reducing benefits for stroke. Walking, riding a bike, and working in the yard are just a few examples of activities that can produce an adequate workout. Studies have shown that the regularity of moderate physical activity is more important in controlling stroke than the intensity of the activity.

Avoid Excessive Drinking

Heavy alcohol use (defined as more than two beers, two glasses of wine, or two ounces of hard liquor per day) increases the risk of high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of stroke.

See Heavy alcohol consumption to learn more about dangers of high alcoho; consumption on stroke.

Incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your diet.

People who have a higher intake of fruits and vegetables are found to have lower incidence of stroke. We do not understand fully the formal connection between stroke risk and the diet.

Keep your diabetes in check

Diabetes increases the risk of stroke by 300 percent. People with high blood sugar levels often have strokes that are more severe and more debilitating. On the other hand, better control of diabetes can help reduce stroke risk. 

See Diabetes to learn more about the diabetes risk to stroke.

(See diabetes to learn more about diabetes and how to treat it.)

Have a healthy heart

Heart disease substantially increases the risk of stroke. In fact stroke is sometimes called brain attack because of the biological similarities between heart attack and stroke. Reduce the risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, high blood sugar, and excess weight because these are also risk factors for stroke.

See: Heart disease to learn more about the risk of heart disease to stroke.

(See Cardiovascular health to learn more about keeping your heart healthy.)

Keep your cholesterol level under control

Experts believe that a high cholesterol level plays a role in the development of carotid atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty material in the carotid arteries, the blood vessels that supply the brain. The narrowing of these arteries brings about a significant increase in stroke risk.

Cutting your cholesterol by 25 percent lowers your stroke risk by 29 percent, according to an analysis of 16 studies by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Check your blood cholesterol levels once per month and manage your cholesterol levels.

See: High blood cholesterol levels to learn more about the risk of high cholesterol to stroke.

Aspirin may be beneficial

Regular aspirin reduces the risk of heart attack, especially in men. The evidence is less clear for stroke. Aspirin does seem to protect against recurrent strokes in people who have already had one stroke, but studies have yet to prove that aspirin reduces the chance of a first stroke. Ask your doctor about using aspirin to head off a stroke.

If your risk of stroke is high because of severe atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, or a history of heart disease, TIAs, or previous strokes, you should see a doctor regularly. When clot stroke is the indicated danger, your doctor may advise an aspirin a day to thin blood or other medications.

If your doctor recommends taking an anticoagulant to prevent stroke, ask whether you can try aspirin. Many doctors call aspirin the best-choice anticoagulant. It is preferred over prescription drugs because it's almost as effective, yet it is much cheaper and causes fewer side effects. Many studies have shown that taking regular low-dose aspirin helps prevent stroke (and heart disease). You can also try a herbal aspirin called willow tea if you prefer natural alternatives.

Don't ignore warning signs

Our body occasionally provide us with several warning signs to tell us of impending trouble. A fluttering heart, palpitations, or other suspicious sensations in the heart may mean trouble. Atrial fibrillation, a type of rapid, irregular heartbeat, poses a special risk for stroke. During an episode of irregular heartbeat, a blood clot can be ejected from the heart and shut off blood flow in an artery leading to the brain. And that can result in a stroke. The condition is more common in older people. Since prompt treatment can make a world of difference, see your doctor and tell him about these so that they can be checked. Don't feel embarrassed. It is your life.

See Also: 

Common Sense Recommendations for Hypertension

Common Sense Recommendations for Heart Attack

Common Sense Care for Heart Disease

Caution: These remedies are not meant to be used as a treatment for stroke. If you suspect a stroke, seek emergency medical treatment immediately. Time is of essence.

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