August 27, 2014
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Stroke Risk Reduction

Stroke Risk Reduction Health Home >> Stroke Risk Reduction 

What can I do to reduce my stroke risk?

About 300,000 Canadians are living with the after-effects of a stroke, such as paralysis, vision problems, and difficulties with memory and thinking. But this doesn't have to be your story. Learn how you can reduce your stroke risk:

Get a treatment plan for your high cholesterol

High cholesterol is a major risk factor for stroke. You can reduce your risk of stroke by managing your cholesterol levels.

Take action to reduce your risk! Talk to your doctor about a treatment plan to manage your cholesterol.

Your treatment plan may involve medications and healthy lifestyle changes. It's very important to follow the treatment plan your doctor recommends. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor.

Some people have other medical conditions that put them at risk of stroke. Talk to your doctor to learn more about your stroke risk and how to reduce it.

Live a healthy lifestyle

A few simple lifestyle changes can help lower your cholesterol and dramatically cut your stroke risk:

Healthy lifestyle change

What to aim for

How to make it happen*
Eat healthy (good nutrition) as directed by your doctor

Each day, try to eat:

  • 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables
  • 6-8 servings of grains (with at least half of these from whole grain products)
  • 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy products
  • 2-3 servings of lean meat or meat alternatives (such as tofu)

Don't eat too much sodium. Aim for:

  • age under 50: 1500 mg/day
  • age 50-70: 1300 mg/day
  • age over 70: 1200 mg/day
  • Buy whole-grain bread instead of white.
  • Add berries to your morning cereal, carrot sticks to lunch, or a salad to dinner.
  • Whenever you would usually drink pop or juice, drink water instead.
  • Use healthy snacks such as precut fruit and veggies and salad in a bag.
  • Cook up a large batch of healthy food on the weekend, then freeze it in meal-sized portions for the week.
  • Consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Exercise as directed by your doctor Ask your doctor how much activity and what types of exercise are safe for you.

Check with your doctor before starting to exercise.

If your doctor gives you approval to exercise, start slowly - even 10 minutes of activity is enough to get started. Then gradually work your way up to longer exercise times:

  • Today, after dinner, put on some comfortable shoes and walk around the neighborhood.
  • Park a bit further from work or shopping.
  • Do more gardening and physical household chores (such as vacuuming).
Reach a healthy weight as directed by your doctor

Aim for:

or

  • waist size of less than 80 cm (31.5 inches) for women or less than 94 cm (37 inches) for men
  • Try eating healthy and exercising (see above) to lose weight safely.
  • Consult your doctor before making any changes to your physical activity or diet.
Use alcohol in moderation as directed by your doctor
  • Limit yourself to no more than 2 drinks a day, to a maximum of 10 drinks per week for women, and no more than 3 drinks a day, to a maximum of 15 drinks per week for men.

    (If you have liver disease, check with your doctor to find out your maximum recommended alcohol consumption.)
  • Keep track of your drinking for a week to see if you're over the limit. One drink is:
    • 341 mL (12 ounces) beer
    • 142 mL (5 ounces) wine
    • 43 mL (1.5 ounces) spirits
  • Cut back if you are over the limit. If you are having trouble, talk to your doctor.
Quit smoking as directed by your doctor Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. If you are a non-smoker, do not start smoking.
  • When you're ready to quit, ask your friends and family to help, and speak to your doctor or pharmacist about options to help you quit.
Tame your stress as directed by your doctor Understand and control the sources of stress in your life.
  • Make a list of things that make you feel stressed.
  • Focus on the things that cause you the most stress, and think of ways to avoid or manage them. Try exercising (helps relieve stress), talking to a friend, taking breaks, using humour, delegating to someone else, or just saying "no."
  • Consult your doctor for assistance with stress management.
Have regular medical check-ups as directed by your doctor Have regular medical check-ups to make sure your cholesterol is under control and to screen for other conditions that can increase your risk of stroke, such as atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
  • Ask your doctor for an appointment card. Or, better yet, carry an organizer with you to your doctor's appointment and put the appointment in your calendar as soon as it is made.
  • Ask your doctor how often you need to have medical check-ups.

*These lifestyle suggestions may not be appropriate for everyone. Check with your doctor to find out which lifestyle changes you should make to reduce your risk of stroke.
This is not a complete list of all medical conditions that can increase your risk of stroke; speak with your doctor for more information.

Use cholesterol medications as directed

What medications are available?

There is a wide variety of different medications to lower cholesterol, and the choice of medication will be based on your individual situation and whether you have any other medical conditions. Some types of cholesterol medications include:

  • bile acid sequestrants:These block bile acids from being reabsorbed into the blood. The liver is then forced to make more bile to replace what is lost. Since cholesterol is needed to make bile, the liver uses up the cholesterol in the blood, which reduces the amount of LDL cholesterol circulating in the blood.
  • cholesterol absorption inhibitors:These block cholesterol from being absorbed into the body through the intestine. This lowers the levels of cholesterol in the blood.
  • fibrates:It's not fully understood how fibrates work, but it is thought that they reduce the amount of triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood by reducing their production and increasing the rate at which certain types of cholesterol are removed from the body.
  • niacin preparations: It's not completely understood how niacin works to lower cholesterol levels in the body.
  • statins: These reduce the production of cholesterol in the liver, which leads to lower blood cholesterol levels.

How are they used?

Cholesterol medications are used in combination with lifestyle changes to lower your cholesterol to a healthy level.

Your cholesterol targets will depend on your overall risk of heart disease and stroke. The usual target is to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol by at least 50%.Your doctor can provide information specific to your treatment goals.

What are the risks of these medications?

These medications may cause side effects, such as:

  • bile acid sequestrants: constipation, bloating, gas, increases in triglyceride levels (measured in a lab test), reduced absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K, increased risk of bleeding due to vitamin K deficiency
  • cholesterol absorption inhibitors: back pain, joint pain, diarrhea, abdominal pain, coughing, gas, tiredness, muscle aches and pains, liver problems, inflammation of the pancreas
  • fibrates: nausea, abdominal pain, gas, muscle aches, headache, diarrhea, skin rash
  • niacin preparations: hot flushes, itching, skin rash, headache, upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, increased blood sugar, heart rhythm changes
  • statins: abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, gas, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, muscle damage, increase in liver enzyme levels (measured in a lab test), sleep disturbances, headache, rash, tingling or numbness of skin

This is not a complete list of all possible side effects. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to for full information on side effects of a particular medication.

How can I get the most from my medication?

  • Talk to your doctor to make sure you know how to use your medication. Ask your doctor if there are any special instructions for your medication such as avoiding certain medications or foods, and whether you need any routine monitoring or testing while you are on the medication.
  • Take your medication as recommended by your doctor. If you find that you miss doses of medication or scheduled medical tests, talk to your doctor or pharmacist for help.
  • Call your pharmacy for a refill before you run out of medication.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about your medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist for help.
  • Use the Medication Check-Up tool to make sure you're getting the most out of your medication and see whether it's time to talk to your doctor about your medication.
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The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your physician or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Never disregard any advice given to you by your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Always seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site is not a substitute for medical advice.

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