The best way to help prevent a stroke is to:
- have your blood pressure and pulse checked - especially if you are over 40 or have family history of heart disease or stroke
- eat a healthy diet
- be physically active
- not smoke
- avoid drinking too much alcohol
- not use drugs - for example cocaine
These health checks and lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of your arteries becoming clogged with fatty substances. They will also lower the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
If you've already had a stroke, making these changes can help reduce your risk of having another one.
An unhealthy diet of high-fat and high-salt foods may increase your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
A low-fat, high-fibre diet including fruit and vegetables is usually recommended.
Don't eat too much of any one food, particularly foods that are high in salt.
Limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than 6g (0.2oz) a day - about 1 teaspoonful. Too much salt can increase your blood pressure. There may already be salt in your food, especially in processed foods.
Combining a healthy diet with physical activity is the best way to:
- maintain a healthy weight
- lower your cholesterol
- keep your blood pressure at a healthy level
Most people should try to get at least 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of physical activity each week. This could include cycling or fast walking.
Talk to your healthcare team about keeping active if you are recovering from a stroke. Regular exercise may not be possible in the first weeks or months after a stroke.
Smoking increases your risk of having a stroke. This is because it narrows your arteries and makes your blood more likely to clot.
You can reduce your risk of having a stroke by stopping smoking. Quitting smoking will also improve your general health. It can reduce your risk of getting other conditions, such as lung cancer and heart disease.
Cut down on alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. Both of these can increase your risk of having a stroke.
Because alcoholic drinks are high in calories, they also cause weight gain. Heavy drinking increases the risk of stroke more than 3 times.
If you have recovered from a stroke you should not go over the recommended alcohol limits.
If you have not fully recovered from your stroke, you may find the recommended lower limits may be too much for you.
Managing underlying conditions
You will need to manage any underlying condition that may increase your risk of stroke.
The lifestyle changes mentioned above can help control these conditions. But you also need to continue to take your regular prescribed medicines.