Let’s Talk About Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke

front page of the Let's Talk About Stroke: Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke resourceA stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). Stroke affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. The good news is that many strokes may be prevented through blood pressure control, a healthy diet, regular physical activity and smoking cessation. Each plays a big part in decreasing your risk for stroke, disability or even death.

What steps can I take to be healthier and reduce my risk of stroke?

  • Don’t smoke or vape and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Eat healthy foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium (salt). Reduce sugary drinks.
  • Do regular physical activity.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Limit alcohol to one drink a day for women; two drinks per day for men.
  • Take your medications as directed.
  • Know your blood pressure. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Get your blood pressure checked regularly and work with your health care professional to manage it if it’s high. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke.
  • Reduce stress, which may contribute to behaviors such as overeating, lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet and smoking.
  • Have regular medical checkups, including assessment of your risk for stroke.
  • Get adequate sleep, 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults; more for children and kids.

How do I stop smoking or vaping?

  • Make a decision to quit — and stick to it.
  • Ask a health care professional for information, programs and/or medications that may help you quit.
  • Call a quit line coach at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
  • Sign up for free texting programs or use a mobile app.
  • Know your triggers and eliminate them if possible.
  • Deal with urges by keeping busy, getting active, engaging in a new hobby, journaling or meditating.
  • Remind yourself that smoking causes many diseases, can harm others and is deadly.
  • Ask your family and friends to support you and keep you accountable.

How do I change my eating habits?

  • Ask your doctor, nurse, a licensed nutritionist or registered dietitian about how you can come up with a plan that’s mindful of your special health needs.
  • Eat moderate amounts of food and cut down on saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and salt.
  • Bake, broil, roast and boil foods instead of frying.
  • Read nutrition labels on packaged meals. Look for the AHA Heart-Check mark on packaging.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy sources of protein, low-fat dairy and healthy oils.
  • Use a diary, or if available, a mobile app to track what you’re eating. Try to incorporate healthy substitutions or alternatives.

What about physical activity?

  • Set goals and keep reaching for them. Gradually increase your activity to gain even more health benefits.
  • Throughout the week, try to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination of both.
    • Moderate-intensity physical activities include a brisk walk or water aerobics. Vigorous-intensity activities could include running, hiking or cycling.
  • Also, strive for moderate- to high-intensity musclestrenghtening activity, such as resistance bands or weights, on at least two days per week.
  • Short on time? Don’t just skip it; instead, break up your activity into smaller times to fit your schedule.
  • Look for even small chances to be more active. Take the stairs instead of an elevator, walk to the mailbox, and park farther from your destination.
  • If you have a chronic medical condition, check with your health care professional before you start an exercise program.

How can I learn more?

  1. Call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) or visit stroke.org to learn more about stroke or find local support groups.
  2. Sign up for our monthly Stroke Connection e-news for stroke survivors and caregivers at StrokeConnection.org.
  3. Connect with others who have also had an experience with stroke by joining our Support Network at stroke.org/SupportNetwork.

Do you have questions for your doctor or nurse?

Take a few minutes to write down your own questions for the next time you see your health care professional. For example:

What stroke risk factors can I modify?
What kind of physical activity can I do safely?


We have many other fact sheets to help you make healthier choices, manage your condition or care for a loved one.
Visit stroke.org/LetsTalkAboutStroke to learn more


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