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Stroke Smart Magazine

January/February 2007

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10 Steps to Prevent Another Stroke

By Rowena Alegria

If you have had a stroke, the last thing you want to do is have another. But your risk is high, and the stakes are higher.

Second strokes “could be associated with risk of physical disability and of changes in cognition (thinking),” says Dr. Phil Gorelick of the Center for Stroke Research at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

More than four out of 10 men who have had a stroke will face another within five years. For women, that number is about one in four.

There are many things that can affect your risk for stroke, some that you can change and some that you can't.

One of the factors you cannot change is your age. If you are over 55, your risk is higher. Also, men are at greater risk, as are African Americans. If someone in your family has had a stroke, you are more likely to have one as well. Diabetes is also a contributing factor.

Despite those factors, you may be able to greatly reduce your risk of recurrent stroke by changing your lifestyle. Here are some things you should do, in addition to properly taking any prescribed medicines:

  1. Control your blood pressure.
    This is one of the most critical and easily controlled risk factors. It's important to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year and to keep it under control. “The key message to understand is that getting blood pressure down to acceptable levels … is the goal,” says Gorelick.

  2. Quit smoking.
    Smoking causes narrowing of the arteries and makes the blood more likely to clot. It also increases blood pressure. All are risk factors for stroke. If you smoke, you are five times more likely to have another stroke, a heart attack or die.

  3. Keep your alcohol intake to a minimum.

  4. Manage your diabetes.

  5. Eat healthy.
    A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet will keep your weight down and prevent plaques from building up in your arteries. “Meeting with a dietician is often helpful to get the stroke patient and his or her family on the right dietary pathway,” Gorelick says.

  6. Reduce sodium (salt) in your diet.
    A low-sodium diet can keep blood pressure from rising and help blood pressure medicines work better.

  7. Monitor your cholesterol levels.
    When cholesterols build up in the arteries, blood cannot move freely, increasing the risk of stroke.

  8. Monitor circulation problems with the help of your doctor.

  9. Get moving.
    Some kind of physical activity every day helps your blood pressure, your cholesterol, your circulation and your state of mind. “If the patient has a physical limitation due to stroke, there are special exercise adaptations which may be provided,” Gorelick says.

Find out if you have atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heart beat that allows blood to pool in the heart and form clots.

Preventing recurrent stroke is simple: Listen to your doctor, watch your diet and your weight, exercise and take your medicine as directed.


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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