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New Guidelines for Stroke Prevention

American Stroke Association Highlights Ways People Can Lower Their Risk of Stroke

Lowering Stroke Risk

The new report reiterated some well-known steps that people can take to lower their stroke risk, including:

  • Knowing your blood pressure and keeping high blood pressure under control
  • Not smoking and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Getting regular physical exercise
  • Aggressively treating disorders that increase stroke risk, such as diabetes, irregular heartbeat, carotid artery disease, and heart failure
  • Treating diabetes patients with statins to lower "bad" cholesterol
  • Increasing potassium in the diet to at least 4.7 grams a day and reducing sodium intake to 2.3 grams or less to help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension
  • A referral to be considered for genetic counseling for people with rare genetic causes of stroke

More Who Might Be at Risk

Sleep-disordered breathing, such as in sleep apnea, also appears to increase stroke risk. This suspected link led to the recommendation that people with excessive daytime sleepiness and who may snore loudly each night be evaluated for the condition and get treatment if they have it.

"We know that treating sleep apnea is associated with a reduction of blood pressure," Goldstein says. "And although we don't have direct evidence that (treatment) will reduce stroke risk, the feeling is that it will. But that is not yet supported by randomized trials."

Other prevention efforts that may reduce stroke risk include:

  • Limiting alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks a day if you are a man and one drink a day if you are a woman. Avoiding illicit drug use.
  • Taking low-dose aspirin if you are a woman at high risk for stroke. Aspirin has been shown to reduce heart attack risk in men, but the stroke data are less conclusive. No one should take aspirin for prevention without first discussing it with their doctor, however.
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy should not be used for prevention of stroke.


The Importance of Quick Action

If you think you are having a stroke or someone around you is, call 911 immediately, not your doctor, Goldstein says.

Time is critical, and the quicker a stroke victim gets to a hospital the better his or her chances of surviving and recovering.

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