Stroke Smart Magazine
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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
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep your alcohol intake to a minimum.
- Manage your diabetes.
- 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
- Reduce sodium (salt) in your diet.
A low-sodium diet can keep blood pressure from
rising and help blood pressure medicines work
- Monitor your cholesterol levels.
When cholesterols build up in the arteries, blood
cannot move freely, increasing the risk of stroke.
- Monitor circulation problems with the help of
- 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,”
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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