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Stroke Risk Factors and Prevention Guidelines

Everyone has some stroke risk. Some risk factors are beyond your control, including age, sex, race, diabetes and family history, according to the National Stroke Association. If you have one of these risk factors, it is even more important that you learn about the lifestyle and medical changes you can make to prevent a stroke.

Medical conditions

They include previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini stroke), high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, carotid artery disease and diabetes. These factors can be controlled and managed, even if you have already had issues with any of them in the past, according to University Primary Stroke Center specialists. Talk with your doctor about what will work best for you.


They include smoking, being overweight and drinking too much alcohol. You can control these lifestyle risk factors by quitting smoking, exercising regularly, watching what and how much you eat and limiting alcohol consumption.


A family history of stroke increases the chance you will have one, too. Age also is a factor. The older you are, the more likely you to have a stroke. Men, especially among African-Americans and Hispanics, are at the greatest risk.

Prevention guidelines

  • Know your blood pressure. If it is elevated, work with your doctor to keep it under control. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. Having your blood pressure checked at least once a year – more often if you have a history of high blood pressure.
  • Find out if you have atrial fibrillation (AF). If you do, work with your doctor to manage it. Atrial fibrillation can cause blood to collect in your heart's chambers and form clots.
  • If you smoke, stop. Smoking doubles the risk for stroke. If you stop smoking today, your risk for stroke will begin to decrease.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Alcohol is a drug. It can interact with other drugs you are taking, and alcohol is harmful if taken in large doses.
  • Know your cholesterol number. Have your healthcare provider test your cholesterol levels at least once very five years, advises the CDC. If it is high, work with your doctor to control it. High cholesterol increases stroke risk by putting you at greater risk of heart disease, an important stroke risk factor. Cholesterol levels often can be controlled with diet and exercise; some people may require medication.
  • Control your diabetes. Follow your doctor's recommendations carefully because diabetes puts you at an increased risk for stroke. Your physician may prescribe a nutrition program, lifestyle changes and medication.
  • Include exercise in your daily routine. A brisk walk, swim or other exercise for as little as 30 minutes a day can improve your health in many ways while reducing your risk for stroke.
  • Enjoy a diet with less sodium (salt) and fat. By cutting down on sodium and fat, you may lower blood pressure and your risk for stroke.
  • Ask if you have circulation problems. If your doctor determines that you do, work to control them. Fatty deposits can block arteries that carry blood from your heart to your brain. Sickle cell disease, severe anemia or other diseases can cause stroke if untreated.
If you have any stroke symptoms, call 911 for immediate medical attention.