If you have had a stroke or TIA, your chances of having a second stroke are up to 10 times higher than someone who has never had one. In addition to watching for stroke warning signs, here are some steps you can take to understand and minimize your stroke risk factors that can be controlled.
- Work Closely with Your Health Care Professional to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation and diabetes. Your doctor may recommend different medications or procedures to help prevent another stroke. For ischemic strokes, these may include interventions to improve blood flow in arteries that are clogged. If any medication is prescribed, you will need to take them exactly as directed and watch for any side effects that may occur.
- If You Smoke Cigarettes, Stop Smoking. The risk of ischemic stroke in current smokers is double that of nonsmokers. Chemicals in tobacco can get absorbed and damage the blood vessel walls, speed up hardening of the arteries and elevate blood pressure. Stroke risk greatly declines for those who stop smoking, regardless of how long they have smoked in the past.
- Consume Alcohol Sensibly. Regular heaving drinking can raise blood pressure.
- Eat a Healthy Diet. This includes decreasing or eliminating your intake of saturated and trans fats, lowering sodium intake to about 2000mg daily, and eating more fruits and vegetables. Most processed and fast foods should be avoided. Be mindful of your diet and eat as naturally as possible. Take the time to read ingredients or nutrition facts on the labels of food products you purchase.
- Exercise Regularly. Exercise has many beneficial effects on our heart and blood vessels. It strengthens the heart muscle, increases oxygen intake, keeps blood flowing smoothly, lowers blood pressure and helps maintain a healthy weight. Finding time for exercise in your daily routine may seem difficult, but there are easy ways to include it, such as finding a parking spot farther from your destination or taking the stairs instead of using the elevator. Speak to your health care provider for other ways you can increase activity.
- Take Time to Enjoy Life and Lower Stress Levels. Although a certain amount of stress is unavoidable, studies suggest that stress contributes to high blood pressure. By managing stress with exercise, relaxation techniques and counseling, if needed, stroke risk may be reduced.