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Stroke Prevention Lifestyle Tips

Don't Give Up -- You Can Quit Smoking

Quitting cigarette smoking is an important step you can take to reduce your risk of a second stroke. And the benefits come quickly -- just five years after you stop smoking, your risk for stroke will be the same as that of a nonsmoker. Cigarette smoking is one of the biggest contributing risk factors to stroke.

"There's no question that quitting smoking is extraordinarily difficult," Goldstein says. But if you've tried to quit before and failed, don't despair. According to a Gallup poll, former smokers needed an average of six attempts before they stopped smoking for good. So the more you try, the better your chance of succeeding.

Talk with your doctor about which smoking cessation method is right for you. The best programs provide counseling and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or medication. Studies show that just by using anti-smoking medication or NRT, you can double your chance of success.  

Make a plan to avoid people who smoke, and if you live with a smoker, ask him or her to take it outside. Not only will being around other smokers tempt you to light up, but all their puffing is bad for your health. "Secondhand smoke is probably as important a risk factor for stroke as being the primary smoker," Goldstein tells WebMD.

Revamp Your Diet

Improving your diet will address a number of risk factors for stroke -- including being overweight. "Start by replacing high-fat foods with low-fat and lean versions, and replace refined and high-sugar foods with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables,” says Julia Renee Zumpano, RD, LD, a registered dietitian in preventive cardiology and rehabilitation at the Cleveland Clinic. “These changes will provide you cardio-protective antioxidants and boost the fiber in your diet. Boosting the fiber can help you feel fuller and more satisfied. As an added bonus, certain types of fiber can also help lower your cholesterol.”

Although there are many approaches to eating healthy, following these basic guidelines can help simplify the process:

  • Stock up on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Buy produce in an array of colors -- reds, oranges, yellows and greens -- to get a range of nutrients.  
  • Buy only whole-grain bread, cereal, rice, and pasta.
  • Choose poultry, fish, and lean meats.
  • Add nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans and peas) to your meals several times a week.
  • Buy only fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Use healthy fats such as olive, canola, and other vegetable oils or plant-based stanols, and look for trans-free margarines.
  • Toss your salt shaker. Don't add salt while cooking or at the table.
  • Read food labels and avoid foods high in sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat.
  • Try to have at least one meatless meal a week. Eating more of a plant-based diet makes it easier to limit cholesterol and unhealthy fats.

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