How to prevent a stroke

Understanding the risk factors and some minor lifestyle changes could help prevent a new or recurrent stroke.

blood pressure test

Stroke is the second biggest killer in Australia. One in six Australians will suffer from a stroke in their lifetime. Understanding the risk factors may help you make lifestyle changes which can prevent strokes.

A stroke is the term used to describe an interrupted flow of blood to a specific part of the brain, which causes the brain cells in the immediate area to die due to oxygen deprivation. While not all risk factors for stroke, such as age, gender and family history, can be controlled, there are things you can do to prevent strokes happening to you.

Risk factors
The following lifestyle choices may increase your risk of stroke:

  • obesity
  • lack of exercise
  • high blood pressure
  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • high blood cholesterol levels
  • heavy drinking
  • high fat, low fibre diet

As you get older atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) may become another important risk factor. When multiple factors are present, your overall risk will increase. You should consult your doctor who can assess your absolute risk, based on your age, gender, family history and the lifestyle factors above.

What you can do to reduce your risk?

Reduce your blood pressure
Reducing high blood pressure can significantly reduce your risk of stroke. Commonly referred to as hypertension, this is when the blood is exerting more pressure than is normal and can, over time, weaken and damage blood vessel walls, which can cause a stroke.

Hypertension may also result in a thickening of the artery walls and eventual blockage. The pressure of blood pumping through can then cause for some of the debris to come loose from the artery wall and lodge in a blood vessel in the brain, causing a stroke.

The following strategies could help you reduce your blood pressure:

  • check your blood pressure regularly
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • exercise regularly
  • eat a low fat, high-fibre diet
  • reduce salt from your diet
  • limit your alcohol intake
  • stop smoking
  • take medications where necessary

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