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Stroke is a medical emergency. With timely treatment, the risk of death and disability from stroke can be lowered. It’s important to know the symptoms and act in time; the first 3 hours are critical, brain cells are dying.





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Stroke Prevention (Controllable Risk Factors)

There are two types of stroke risk factors:

Uncontrollable - see Risk Factors

Controllable

Alcohol

Atrial Fibrillation

Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Cholesterol

Circulation

Diabetes

Diet and Nutrition

Tobacco

Weight and Physical Activity

 

80% of strokes can be prevented!

You can take steps to lower your risk for stroke through lifestyle modification, control of risk factors and basic medical care.

The following are risk factors that are controllable.

Alcohol

Excessive alcohol can lead to an increase in blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

People who drink should do so in moderation. Studies show that drinking more than two drinks a day can increase your risk for stroke.

Alcohol can interact with some drugs. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medicines you’re taking could interact with alcohol.

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Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) affects as many as 2.2 million Americans. About 15% of stroke patients have had atrial fibrillation before they experience a stroke.

AF is an irregular beating of the heart. It can cause clots that can lead to stroke.

If you have AF, your doctor may choose to lower your risk for stroke by prescribing medicines.

See the CDC Atrial Fibrillation fact sheet.

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Blood Pressure

Many people do not realize they have high blood pressure (hypertension), which usually produces no symptoms but is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Lifestyle actions such as healthy diet, regular physical activity, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight will help to keep normal blood pressure levels.

All adults should have their blood pressure checked at least annually. If it is elevated, work with your doctor to control it with lifestyle changes and/or medicine.

Do not stop taking your blood pressure medication without direction from your doctor.

See the CDC high blood pressure fact sheet.

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Cholesterol

Some strokes can be caused by a narrowing of the arteries due to high cholesterol levels. This is called atherosclerosis. 

There are two types of cholesterol:

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is known as bad cholesterol. If you have high LDL levels your risk of having heart disease and stroke is increased.

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is known as good cholesterol. If you have high HDL your risk of heart disease and stroke is decreased.

Preventing and treating high cholesterol includes eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber, keeping a healthy weight, getting regular exercise and avoiding smoking.

All adults should have their cholesterol levels checked regularly. If it’s high, work with your doctor to control it.

See the CDC cholesterol fact sheet.

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Circulation

Conditions that cause problems with your heart, arteries and veins can increase your risk for stroke.

Diseases such as atherosclerosis, carotid or peripheral artery disease, sickle cell disease and severe anemia if left untreated can cause stroke.

Circulation problems can usually be treated with medicines and sometimes require surgery.

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Diabetes

People with diabetes have 2 to 4 times the risk of stroke. Further, having diabetes can worsen the outcome of stroke.

Recent studies suggest that all people can take steps to reduce their risk for diabetes through lifestyle changes such as weight loss, physical activity and healthy eating habits.

Follow your doctor’s advice to prevent and control diabetes.

More information can be found at CDC's diabetes program Web site.

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Diet and Nutrition

An overall healthy diet can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels which can lead to stroke.

Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Diets high in sodium (salt) can contribute to increased blood pressure. Diets with excess calories can contribute to obesity. 

To lower the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, eat a diet containing lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lower or cut out salt or sodium, and eat less saturated fat and cholesterol.

Consult a nutritionist or your doctor to help control your diet and nutrition.

More information can be found at CDC's nutrition and physical activity program Web site.

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Tobacco

Smoking doubles the risk for stroke.

If you smoke, stop!

Not smoking is one of the best actions a person can take to lower their risk of stroke.

Your doctor can suggest programs to help you quit smoking.

More information can be found at CDC's tobacco intervention and prevention source Web site.

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Weight and Physical Activity

Being inactive, obese or both can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.  

The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in a moderate level of physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Be sure to discuss an appropriate fitness plan with your doctor before beginning or changing an exercise regimen.

More information can be found at CDC's nutrition and physical activity program Web site.

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For additional information, visit:

American Stroke Association

Centers for Disease Control

National Institutes of Health - National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

National Stroke Association

Peninsula Stroke Association