November 29, 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?

As a stroke or TIA survivor, you have a high risk of stroke. But you can change it! By combining different lifestyle changes and medical interventions, it has been suggested that 80% of secondary strokes can be prevented. Learn how you can reduce your stroke risk:

Live a healthy lifestyle

The same lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk of a first stroke can also help reduce the risk of a second stroke. Make these simple, healthy changes to dramatically cut your stroke risk:

Eat healthy (good nutrition) as directed by your doctor

What to aim for:

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

How to make it happen:

  • 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

What to aim for:

Ask your doctor how much activity and what types of exercise are safe for you.

How to make it happen:

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).

If you have medical conditions, check with your doctor before starting to exercise.

Reach a healthy weight as directed by your doctor

What to aim for:

or

  • waist size of less than 80 cm (31.5 inches) for women or less than 94 cm (37 inches) for men

How to make it happen:

  • 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

What to aim for:

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.)

How to make it happen:

  • 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

What to aim for:

Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. If you are a non-smoker, do not start smoking.

How to make it happen:

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

What to aim for:

Understand and control the sources of stress in your life.

How to make it happen:

  • 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.

*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.

Get medical conditions under control

How do medical conditions increase stroke risk?

The connection is simple - strokes can happen one of 2 ways:

  • when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain (this causes 80% of strokes)
  • when blood vessels burst in the brain

Medical conditions that increase the risk of blood clots or bursting blood vessels will also increase your stroke risk.

Which medical conditions could increase my stroke risk?

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, also called AFib of AF, affects about 250,000 Canadians. For people with AFib, the risk of a stroke caused by a blood clot is 3 to 5 times what it would be otherwise. AFib causes up to 15% of all strokes, and one-third of all strokes in people over 60.

AFib causes the heart to beat abnormally. Blood pools in the heart, and when blood stands still it is more likely to clot. A clot from the heart could then travel through the bloodstream into the brain, where it could block a blood vessel, causing a stroke.

To learn more, see atrial fibrillation and stroke risk reduction.

Diabetes

Diabetes affected over 3 million Canadians in 2009, and this number is projected to rise to over 3.7 million by 2020. People with diabetes have a much higher death rate from stroke and heart attack than people without diabetes. The death rate from a stroke or heart attack is 3 times higher for men and 5 times higher for women if you have diabetes.

Diabetes makes it harder for the body to break down sugar for energy. Sugar stays in the blood, where it damages the blood vessels, making them more likely to become narrow or blocked. Diabetes also increases the risk of high blood pressure, which increases stroke risk on it own.

To learn more, see diabetes and stroke risk reduction.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure affects 20% of Canadians. Controlling high blood pressure can reduce your stroke risk by up to 40%.

High blood pressure increases stroke risk by damaging blood vessels so they are more likely to clog or burst.

To learn more, see high blood pressure and stroke risk reduction.

High cholesterol

About 40% of Canadians have high cholesterol.

High cholesterol causes fatty deposits to build up in your blood vessels. This could block blood vessels in the brain and cause a stroke.

To learn more, see high cholesterol and stroke risk reduction.

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 the risk of stroke.

What should I do to get these conditions under control?

Follow the treatment plan your doctor recommends, take your medications as directed, and have regular medical check-ups.

Talk to your doctor about how to control your medical conditions.

Use medications as directed

Depending on your individual situation and medical conditions, your doctor may recommend that you take a variety of medication(s).

Such medications include:

Click on the links above to learn more about the medications. Keep in mind that all medications may cause side effects. Some side effects are mild while others are more severe. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you understand what side effects to expect and how to manage them. Medications work best when they're taken regularly as recommended by your doctor. If you're having trouble with your medication, see your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

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 options.

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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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