A healthy lifestyle is key to stroke prevention. Strokes are caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain. In a majority of stroke cases — roughly 87% — strokes are ischemic, meaning they are caused by blood clots in the arteries. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can help prevent plaque buildup in your blood vessels, which in turn will help to manage your stroke risk.
Did you know? Approximately 8 out of 10 strokes may be preventable.
Understanding your personal risk of stroke will also help you better understand what steps you should take for stroke prevention. Learning your health history and other risk factors will benefit your brain in the long term.
5 Steps to Stroke Prevention
Incorporate these five healthy habits to help with stroke prevention.
- Don’t smoke. The carbon monoxide and nicotine in cigarettes cause severe damage to your heart and blood vessels. The damage makes a stroke more likely to occur. If you do smoke, take steps to quit.
- Eat, drink and be healthy. Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats from fish, poultry and nuts. Save sugary beverages, red meat and saturated fats for rare occasions.
- Keep an eye on your blood pressure. High blood pressure often doesn’t cause symptoms; you may only know your numbers by having it checked. Regular visits with your primary care provider will often include blood pressure screenings, so keep those on your calendar.
- Prioritize exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week, or approximately 20–30 minutes each day.
- Don’t skimp on sleep. During sleep, your body repairs your tissues and blood vessels, as well as lowering your risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease, both of which can increase your risk of stroke. For proper stroke prevention, aim for seven or more hours of sleep each night.
Managing Stroke Risk Factors
Another element of stroke prevention is understanding your stroke risk factors. There are some factors you cannot control, such as:
- Sex: Stroke is more fatal in women than men, but men have strokes in greater numbers.
- Race: The African American population is at higher risk for stroke, especially when combined with other risk factors.
Did you know? If you are African American, smoking may double your risk of stroke.
- Sickle cell anemia and other diseases: Some health conditions, such as sickle cell disease, congenital heart defects or chronic kidney disease can increase stroke risk.
How You Can Manage Your Stroke Risk
Working with your primary care provider to monitor your health, including any ongoing concerns, is a crucial step in stroke prevention. It’s also important to continue in healthy habits. Those habits can help you maintain better control of your overall health.