Preventing Stroke

It is estimated that around 80% of all strokes are preventable.

There are many risk factors  which include :

  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking
  • A heart condition called Atrial Fibrillation
  • Physical Inactivity

Of these factors – unmanaged high blood pressure is responsible for around half of all strokes – so it is important to see you doctor to ensure your blood pressure is within normal range.  Stopping smoking and increasing physical activity will also help with  managing your blood pressure  so are important in reducing stroke risk. Regular medical checks and blood pressure monitoring are also important in reducing stroke risk.

Eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, avoiding smoking and avoiding drinking too much alcohol are the best ways to prevent stroke

These lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of problems such as atherosclerosis (where arteries become clogged up by fatty substances), high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, all of which are risk factors for strokes.

If you have already had a stroke, making these changes can help reduce your risk of having another one in the future.

Diet

An unhealthy diet can increase your chances of having a stroke because it may lead to an increase in your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Therefore, a low-fat, high-fibre diet is usually recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit (2 serves)and vegetables (3 serves) and whole grains.

Ensuring a balance in your diet is important. Don’t eat too much of any single food – particularly foods that are high in salt and processed foods.

You should limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than one teaspoonful a day because too much salt will increase your blood pressure.

Exercise

Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight, and regular exercise can also help lower your cholesterol level and keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

For most people, at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week is recommended.

If you are recovering from a stroke, you should discuss possible exercise plans with your doctor. Regular exercise may not be possible in the first weeks or months following a stroke but you should be able to begin exercising once your rehabilitation has progressed.

Stop smoking

Smoking significantly increases your risk of having a stroke. This is because it narrows your arteries and makes your blood more likely to clot.

If you stop smoking, you can reduce your risk of having a stroke. Not smoking will also improve your general health and reduce your risk of developing other serious conditions, such as lung cancer and heart disease.

Quitline provides important information on how to improve your chances of quitting smoking, and where to find help.

Reduce alcohol consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure and trigger irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), both of which can increase your risk of having a stroke.

Because alcoholic drinks are high in calories they also add to weight gain. Heavy drinking increases the risk of stroke by more than three times.

If you choose to drink alcohol and have fully recovered, you should aim not to exceed the recommended limits. No more than two standard drinks on any day are recommended for both men and women. If you have not fully recovered from your stroke, you may find that you will have become particularly sensitive to alcohol and even the recommended safe limits as above for the general population may be too much for you.

Managing underlying conditions

If you have been diagnosed with a condition known to increase your risk of stroke – such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, diabetes or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – ensuring the condition is well controlled is also important in helping prevent strokes.

The lifestyle changes mentioned above can help control these conditions to a large degree, but you may also need to take regular medication.


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