How can I prevent a stroke?

Jill Tyroller
You can prevent stroke by keeping health metrics like high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar under control. Learn more from Jill Tyroller, Stroke Coordinator, from Reston Hospital Center in this video.
Mandy J. Binning, MD
Eighty percent of strokes can be prevented by treating and modifying risk factors: diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and heart arrhythmia such as atrial fibrillation.

If those risk factors are identified and treated, you may never have a stroke in the first place. If you've had a stroke, your doctors will examine you to identify specific risk factors and treat those to minimize the risk of a second stroke. These treatments include medications to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, as well as medications to help with smoking cessation. Most risk factors for stroke can be treated, currently.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.
Maintaining or improving your overall health will help you prevent a stroke. Specific medical problems that can increase your risk for stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, so working with your doctor to make sure these conditions are controlled with medications is very important. Smoking greatly increases stroke risk, so quitting smoking also will help prevent stroke.
Raul Guisado, MD
Stroke prevention begins early in life, says neurologist Raul Guisado, MD, of Regional Medical Center in San Jose. Watch this video to learn about what causes stroke and how to prevent it. 
Control of blood pressure is essential for preventing stroke, says neurointerventional surgeon Samuel Hou, MD, of Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center. Watch this video to learn more essentials to prevent strokes.
The best ways to prevent stroke include lifestyle changes and knowing whether you have risk factors. In this video, Susan Steen, MD, a neurologist at Memorial Hospital of Tampa, discusses blood sugar and blood pressure control, among other changes.
You can prevent strokes by managing risk factors, says Phaniraj Iyengar, MD, a vascular neurologist at Sunrise Hospital. In this video, he describes controlling blood pressure and diabetes, eating proper food and exercising.
You can prevent a stroke with lifestyle modifications, including a diet low in saturated fats and regular aerobic exercise, and with routine health maintenance. Routine health maintenance means getting an annual health checkup with your primary care physician, who will monitor key health values such as your blood pressure and cholesterol. Your physician may have you monitor your blood pressure a few times per week at home or at your nearby pharmacy. Depending on your risk factors, you may need blood pressure medication, cholesterol-lowering medication or aspirin to help prevent a stroke. Patients with blockages in blood vessels in their neck may need a surgical procedure to correct this. If you smoke, of course, you must stop.

Controlling the major stroke risk factors is the major way to prevent strokes. The risk factors are: high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, and certain kinds of narrowing in the carotid arteries in the neck. Please ask your doctor about the best way to do this for you.

There are other lifestyle changes you can make to prevent a stroke. Increasing physical activity will help in several ways: it will improve blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar. It also improves well-being. If you are overweight or obese, regular physical activity is one of the ways to reduce your weight, which has a significant impact on your health. Stopping smoking is essential, to prevent not only strokes but a multitude of other diseases, such as heart attack, cancer, and lung disease. If you drink more than 1-2 drinks of alcohol per day, this increases risk of both ischemic (blood-clot type) and hemorrhagic (bleeding-type) of strokes, and this should be cut down. Eating a low-salt, low-fat diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains will decrease risk of stroke, improve blood pressure and cholesterol, and increase overall energy levels. 

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Strokes are very scary. But recent research proves that knowledge = brain-saving power. Here's what you need to know:
  • Feed your brain smart foods. Just swapping olive oil for butter or creamy dressings could cut your stroke odds 41%. Choosing broiled or poached fish instead of fried three times a week can lower them 30%. These two simple antistroke steps lower your blood pressure and lousy LDL cholesterol, cool inflammation, and discourage blood clots. Then, cut back on salt, which is practically fuel injected into fast food, restaurant fare, and many packaged foods. Eating lots of it increases your risk of the most common form of strokes.
  • Exercise slightly harder. Bumping up the intensity just a little can cut by 40% your odds of a "silent" stroke -- a whispered, brief brain attack that boosts your risk for the real thing fivefold. Silent strokes are super common: About 11% of people ages 55 to 65 and half of people over 80 have them. Signs include one side of your body feeling numb or weak for a few moments; a vision fade-out; or a few seconds when you can't understand what others are saying or can't make yourself understood. Tell your doc what you think happened; it could be a warning.
  • Focus on these reversible risks: high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking (including secondhand smoke), off-beat heart rhythms, and clogged arteries.
  • Get gold-standard brain care. Clot-busting drugs save brain cells after an ischemic stroke (the most common type) if you get them within a few hours of a stroke's start. So if you spot early signs of a stroke, get to a hospital that has a certified stroke center at siren speed. (Put the nearest hospital in your cell phone to show the EMT team.) Calling an ambulance and saying "Stroke!" can double or even quadruple the chances of getting to a stroke-certified hospital in time for clot busters to work their magic. Late arrival is a key reason few people -- just 1 in 25 -- who need them get these brain-saving drugs. Getting to a stroke center increases your survival chances by 20%.

Since high blood pressure and cholesterol are two of the most common risk factors for strokes, controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels is an important way to reduce your risk. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by reducing stress; eating a good diet; exercising regularly; not smoking; and taking any blood pressure or cholesterol medication as prescribed. Talk to your doctor about other ways to prevent the condition.
Intermountain Healthcare
Do these things to help prevent stroke (and heart problems, too):
  • Exercise 30 minutes every day. This helps lower blood pressure and protect your health.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Don't smoke. Smokers have more strokes and heart attacks than nonsmokers.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose extra weight if you need to.
  • Don't drink too much alcohol. If you drink, have no more than 1 or 2 drinks a day.
  • Take medicine to control high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If a doctor has given you medicine for these things, take it! Even if you don't notice a change, the medicine can help protect your health.
  • Lower your stress. Take time for yourself. Do things that make you feel happy and calm. Try to get about 8 hours of sleep every night.
The most important steps you can take to prevent a stroke are:
  • Lower your blood pressure (the single biggest stroke risk factor).
  • Keep cholesterol levels healthy.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Lose weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
Note: Treatment with blood-thinning drugs, as directed by a physician on a case-by-case basis, may also be important for stroke prevention.
Nicholas D Suite
Nicholas D Suite on behalf of MDLIVE

Stroke is the sudden or gradual loss of blood flow to an area of the brain, causing damage to the brain that can almost always be seen on brain imaging such as a CAT scan or MRI. Stroke is caused by a blockage of blood flow into or out of the brain. It can also be due to a sudden rupture (breakage) of a blood vessel in the brain.

 Prevention of stroke is possible by controlling high blood pressure, carefully managing diabetes, avoiding smoking, lowering cholesterol levels, being aware of any family history of stroke, and avoiding any activities that might put one at risk for stroke, e.g. drugs.

Doctors may diagnose carotid artery disease using a non-invasive carotid Doppler and transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound exam. Specialized types of CT scan or MRI can also be used to visualize the arteries of the head and neck. Doctors treat the disease with antiplatelet medications and surgical treatments such as:
  • Carotid endarterectomy: removal of the blockage through the neck.
  • Carotid artery angioplasty and stenting: opening the artery with a balloon and placement of a mesh tube in the artery to keep it open.
  • Bypass revascularization: rerouting the blood supply to bypass the obstruction.
Aneurysms and AVMs can be surgically treated by:
  • Blocking the abnormal vessels with "super glue" or tiny platinum coils to prevent bleeding.
  • Placing a clip over an aneurysm to prevent it from growing or rupturing.
  • Targeting AVMs with high-dose radiosurgery to close off the abnormal vessels.

Continue Learning about Stroke Prevention

Stroke Prevention

Stroke Prevention

While some stroke risk factors, such as your age, family history and gender are beyond your control, you can help reduce your risks with lifestyle habits. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet and weight are steps ev...

eryone can take. If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, focus on managing them. Quitting smoking is another important way to lower the risk for stroke. Learn more about stroke prevention with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.