10 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Stroke

March 4, 2019

About 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year. A stroke happens when the brain doesn’t get enough blood, either because an artery is clogged from a clot or other substance blocking the blood flow to the brain, or the artery bursts, stopping blood flow to the brain.

But there’s good news…

“Up to 80 percent of strokes could be prevented with healthy lifestyle changes and by working with your doctor to control health conditions,” says Zoltan Turi, M.D., MSCAI, FACC, co-director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and Structural Heart Program at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Some risk factors for stroke, such as getting older and having a family history of stroke, can’t be changed.

But here are 10 things you can do to lower your stroke risk:

  1. Have your blood pressure checked regularly. “High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke,” notes Pinakin R Jethwa, M.D., a board certified neurosurgeon with Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “It’s estimated that almost half of adults have high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, learn to check it at home with a home monitor. Always remember to check your blood pressure while resting or sitting down.”
  1. If you have diabetes, manage your condition. High blood sugar damages blood vessels and nerves that control your heart. People with diabetes have two to four times the stroke risk compared with those without the disease. Work with your doctor to manage your blood glucose.
  1. Get your cholesterol checked regularly. “High levels of LDL, or ‘bad,’ cholesterol and low levels of HDL, or ‘good,’ cholesterol clog arteries,” says Sheila Sahni, M.D., a board certified cardiologist with JFK Medical Center. “Your cholesterol level is an important part of your overall heart health. Based on your risk factors, your primary care doctor or cardiologist can let you know the best treatment for lowering your level and reducing your risk for heart disease and stroke.”
  1. Get your heart health under control. Coronary artery disease or irregular heartbeat could contribute to stroke. To treat your condition, your doctor might recommend surgery or medication.
  1. Achieve a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for stroke. Obesity is also linked to high cholesterol and blood pressure. To maintain a healthy weight, balance the number of calories you eat with your physical activity level.
  1. Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthy foods can help prevent stroke. Eat foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol. Limit salt and get plenty of fiber. And don’t forget to load up on fruits and vegetables.
  1. Working out helps you stay at a healthy weight and can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. “Aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Even 10 minutes offers health benefits,” says Tommy Ng, M.D., of Southern Ocean Medical Center.
  1. Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking can damage heart and blood vessels, which increases your risk for stroke. Nicotine also raises blood pressure. Kick the habit and your stroke risk drops.
  1. Limit alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women or two for men.
  1. Take steps to reduce stress. Stress can contribute to high blood pressure. When you’re in a stressful situation, try taking a brief break. It can give you a chance to collect your thoughts and put things in perspective. Or try reframing overly negative thoughts in more upbeat terms. Rather than thinking, “I can’t handle this,” tell yourself, “I’ll give it my best shot, and I’ll ask for help if I need it.”

Twelve of Hackensack Meridian Health hospitals hold advanced certification for stroke care and our three academic medical centers, Hackensack University Medical Center, JFK Medical Center and Jersey Shore University Medical Center are state designated comprehensive stroke centers. Learn more about our network stroke services.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

CDC Stroke Facts
CDC, Preventing Stroke: Healthy Living
American Heart Association