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Stroke Prevention

All people can take steps to lower their risk for stroke, whether they have had a stroke or not. Things you can do to lower the risk of stroke include steps to prevent and control high blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.

Prevent and control high blood pressure: High blood pressure is easily checked. It can be controlled with lifestyle changes and with medicines when needed. You can work with your doctor to treat high blood pressure and bring it down. Lifestyle actions such as healthy diet, regular physical activity, not smoking, and healthy weight will also help you to keep normal blood pressure levels. All adults should have their blood pressure checked on a regular basis. See our high blood pressure fact sheet.

Prevent and control diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher risk of stroke, but they can also work to reduce their risk. Further, recent studies suggest that all people can take steps to reduce their risk for diabetes. These include weight loss and regular physical activity. For more information about diabetes, see CDC's diabetes program Web site.

No tobacco: Smoking can affect a number of things that relate to risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Not smoking is one of the best things a person can do to lower their risk of stroke. Quitting smoking will also help to lower a person's risk of stroke. The risk of stroke decreases a few years after quitting smoking. Your doctor can suggest programs to help you quit smoking. For more information about tobacco use and quitting, see CDC's tobacco intervention and prevention source Web site.

Treat atrial fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation is an irregular beating of the heart. It can cause clots that can lead to stroke. A doctor can prescribe medicines to help reduce the chance of clots. See our fact sheet on this condition.

Prevent and control high blood cholesterol: High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, which can increase the risk for stroke. Preventing and treating high blood cholesterol includes eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber, keeping a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise. A lipoprotein profile can be done to measure several kinds of cholesterol as well as triglycerides (another kind of fat found in the blood). All adults should have their cholesterol levels checked once every five years, and more often if it is found to be high. If it is high, your doctor may prescribe medicines to help lower it. See our cholesterol fact sheet.

Moderate alcohol use: Excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of high blood pressure. People who drink should do so in moderation. More information on alcohol can be found at CDC's alcohol and public health Web site.

Maintain a healthy weight: Healthy weight status in adults is usually assessed by using weight and height to compute a number called the "body mass index" (BMI). BMI is used because it relates to the amount of body fat for most people. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. Overweight is a BMI between 25 and 29.9. Normal weight is a BMI of 18 to 24.9. Proper diet and regular physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight. You can compute your BMI at CDC's nutrition and physical activity program Web site.

Regular Physical Activity: The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate level physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. For more information, see CDC's nutrition and physical activity program Web site.

Diet and nutrition: Along with healthy weight and regular physical activity, an overall healthy diet can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This includes eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lowering or cutting out salt or sodium, and eating less saturated fat and cholesterol to lower the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease which can lead to stroke. For more information, see CDC's nutrition and physical activity program Web site.

Genetic Risk Factors
Stroke can run in families. Genes play a role in stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and vascular conditions. It is also possible that an increased risk for stroke within a family is due to factors such as a common sedentary lifestyle or poor eating habits, rather than hereditary factors. Find out more about genetics and diseases on CDC's genomics and disease prevention Web site.

Related Guidelines and Recommendations

Page last reviewed: October 10, 2007
Page last modified: March 3, 2007

Content source: Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

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