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Stroke - Preventing Stroke

Who is at risk for stroke?

While stroke can happen to anyone at any age, there are certain characteristics that increase your chances of having a stroke. Some of these factors are out of your control, such as your age and menopausal status, your family history, and your race or ethnicity. Others are related to an unhealthy lifestyle that you can change to reduce your risk, including:

Your stroke risk is also affected by other medical conditions you might have: coronary artery disease, diabetes, blood clotting problems, atrial fibrillation, peripheral artery disease, and some other types of heart and vascular disease all increase the odds you will suffer a stroke.

There are stroke risk factors that affect women in particular: for example, women taking birth control pills or menopausal hormone therapy are, to varying degrees, at increased stroke risk. There are also stroke concerns that are unique to pregnancy.

Your overall stroke risk is determined by the relation between these and other factors. For detailed information on all of these risk factors and how you can address them to prevent stroke, see our Risk Factors section.

How can I prevent stroke?

The more stroke risk factors you have, the greater the chance that you will have a stroke. You can't control some risk factors, such as aging, family history, race, or gender, but you can change or treat most other risk factors to lower your risk.

Here are some of the best ways to prevent stroke:

  • Keep your weight under control and don’t overeat.
  • Eat a healthy Mediterranean diet low in saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Get regular exercise (30 minutes a day, most days of the week, or more).
  • Find ways to manage stress in your life.
  • If you have high blood pressure, take your blood pressure medicine as prescribed by your health care provider and check your blood pressure regularly.
  • If your cholesterol level is too high, talk to your health care provider about ways to lower it.
  • If you smoke, stop. If it is hard to quit on your own, there are medications, support groups, and programs to help you stop smoking. Your doctor can also help.
  • If you have heart disease or diabetes, take good care of yourself. See your health care provider and take your medicine as prescribed.
  • See a physician immediately if you think you have had a TIA (" mini-stroke").
  • Aspirin therapy may be able to help prevent a stroke; check with your health care provider before starting to take aspirin on a daily basis.

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