Taking steps to manage the following risks may reduce your chances of stroke and disability. Talk with your doctor about treatment and healthy lifestyle changes to lower your risk.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the single most important risk factor for stroke. Know your blood pressure and have it checked at least once every two years. If it’s above 130/80, you may need treatment. Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure and stroke risk.
Smoking cigarettes, pipes and cigars is harmful to your cardiovascular health and significantly raises stroke risk. If you smoke, find a way to quit.
Alcohol and drug abuse
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. If you have trouble controlling your drug or alcohol use, seek immediate help.
Having diabetes increases your risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for controlling your diabetes.
Excess cholesterol can increase the risk of a blockage forming in an artery that leads to the brain. Your bad (LDL) cholesterol should be lower than 100 mg/dL. If yours is higher, follow your doctor’s recommendations to control your cholesterol.
Carotid artery disease
Carotid artery disease occurs when fatty deposits, called plaque, build up in the arteries in your neck that supply blood to your brain. This buildup can block the flow of blood to the brain and cause a stroke. Fortunately, plaque in the carotid arteries can be easily identified through a noninvasive ultrasound performed at your doctor’s office. Early detection can prevent a stroke.
Atrial fibrillation condition causes an irregular heartbeat, which can lead to old blood pooling in the heart and forming clots that can travel to the brain. Other types of heart disease also increase the risk of stroke. If you have any type of cardiovascular condition, talk to your doctor about lowering your stroke risk.
Being physically inactive, obese or both
A lack of physical activity and/or being obese can raise your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. People with excess body fat have a higher risk of stroke even if they don’t have other risk factors. This is especially true for people who carry extra weight around their midsection. Waist measurements greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men increase the risk. Exercising just 30 minutes or more each day can help protect against stroke and many other diseases.
A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase your stroke risk. High-salt diets can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor. Diets with excess calories can contribute to obesity, which is a risk factor. Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day may reduce the risk of stroke.