Brain X-ray
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What Is a Stroke?

It happens when blood stops flowing to part of your brain. The cells begin to die, and you may have damage to areas that control muscles, memory, and speech.

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Man serving salad
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Watch Your Blood Pressure

If you have high blood pressure and you don't manage it well, your chances of getting a stroke go up. Ideally, your blood pressure should be under 120 over 80. If yours is too high, talk to your doctor about ways to change your diet and get more exercise. If that's not enough to control it, they may prescribe medication to help.

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Group fitness
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Break a Sweat

Exercise helps you get to or stay at a healthy weight and keep your blood pressure where it should be -- two things that can lower your odds of having a stroke. You'll need to work out hard enough to break a sweat 5 days a week for about 30 minutes. Talk to your doctor first if you're not in great health or haven't been that active in a while.

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Couple cycling
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Keep Stress in Check

Stress can make it more likely you'll get a stroke, maybe because it causes inflammation in parts of your body. If you're stressed at work, try some simple things to help dial it back. Get up and move around often, breathe deeply, and focus on one task at a time. Make your work area a calm space with plants and soft colors. And be sure to spend a healthy amount of time away from the office.

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Lose Weight

Obesity and the health issues it can cause -- diabetes and high blood pressure -- boost your chances of stroke. You can lower the odds if you lose as few as 10 pounds. Try to keep your calorie count under 2,000 a day, and make exercise a regular thing.

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Glasses of whiskey
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Have a (Single) Drink

Your risk of stroke may go down if you have one drink a day. But be careful: More than two, and it quickly shoots up. Heavy drinking can also lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes -- all things that raise your odds of having a stroke.

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Doctor visit
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Get Your Cholesterol Checked

High levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol and low levels of HDL "good" cholesterol can raise your chances of having plaque buildup in your arteries, which limits blood flow and can lead to a stroke. Cutting down on saturated and trans fats can help lower your LDL, and exercise can boost your HDL. If those don't do the trick, your doctor may prescribe medication to help with your levels.

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Pay Attention to Your Heartbeat

Atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heart rhythm, makes you five times more likely to have a stroke. If you notice a racing or irregular heartbeat, see your doctor to find out what's causing it. If it's AFib, they might be able to treat you with medicine that lowers your heart rate and cuts the odds you'll get blood clots. In some cases, they may try to reset your heart's rhythm with medication or a brief electrical shock.

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Manage Your Diabetes

This condition affects how your body uses glucose, an important source of energy for your brain and the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It can raise your odds of having a stroke, so it's important to watch your blood sugar carefully and follow your doctor's instructions.

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steaming veggies
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Fiber Up

The magic number here is 7: For every 7 grams of fiber you add to your daily diet, your stroke risk goes down by 7%. You should get about 25 grams a day: six to eight servings of whole grains, or eight to 10 servings of vegetables.

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Dark chocolate
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Eat (a Little) Dark Chocolate

Flavonoids are plant-based chemicals in cocoa that have all kinds of health benefits. For example, they can help with inflammation, and that can relieve pressure on your heart. Studies show a little dark chocolate a day helps prevent heart attacks and strokes in people with a higher chance of having heart disease. Just don't overdo it because chocolate has sugar and saturated fat.

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Don’t Smoke

Smoking makes your blood more likely to clot, thickens and narrows your blood vessels, and leads to the buildup of plaque -- all of which make you more likely to have a stroke.

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Man serving salad
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Choose the Right Foods

A balanced diet of fruits, veggies, fish, lean meats, and whole grains can help lower your cholesterol. That means plaque is less likely to build up in your arteries and form clots. It also can help protect you from other conditions that raise your odds of having a stroke, like diabetes and high blood pressure.

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Prescription drugs
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Take Your Meds

This sounds like an easy one, but a lot of people have a hard time with it. Take your medicine for blood pressure, diabetes, and heart health on time and as prescribed. If you're concerned about side effects, talk to your doctor before skipping your medications or taking less than you're supposed to.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 10/11/2019 Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on October 11, 2019


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American College of Cardiology: “Skipping Blood Pressure Medication Increases Stroke Risk.”

American Heart Association: “Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention,” “What You Can Do to Reduce Your Stroke Risk,” “What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean,” “Breaking a sweat while exercising regularly may help reduce stroke risk,” “Saturated Fats,” “High Blood Pressure, Afib and Your Risk of Stroke,” “7 is the lucky number for reducing stroke risk.”

CDC: “Smoking and Heart Disease and Stroke,” “Fact Sheets -- Alcohol Use and Your Health.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Stressed at Work? You May Have a Higher Risk of Stroke.”

Harvard Health Publications: “7 things you can do to prevent a stroke,” “How to lower your stroke risk.”

LiveScience: “Dark Chocolate Lowers Heart Attack, Stroke Risk.”

Mayo Clinic: “Atrial fibrillation -- Treatment.”

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “High Blood Cholesterol: What You Need to Know.”

National Stroke Association: “What is Stroke?”

Psychology Today: “Don't Take Your Medications as Prescribed? You’re Not Alone.”

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on October 11, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.