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Be Stroke Safe: 9 Ways to Reduce Your Risk

By Margaret Nordstrom, DNP May 01, 2024 Posted in: Wellness

Anyone can have a stroke. It’s the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and a major cause of disability. Approximately one out of every six people in the United States will have a stroke in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How Does a Stroke Happen?

This serious medical condition occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, causing brain cells to die. Every minute that passes without treatment increases the risk of permanent brain damage or even death.

How Can I Reduce My Stroke Risk?

The good news is up to 80% of strokes are preventable, according to the American Stroke Association. That’s where you come in. Here’s nine things you can do to reduce your risk of stroke.

  1. Eating a healthy diet decreases stroke risk by 20%.
    • Decrease salt intake
    • Increase fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes
    • Use olive oil and avoid oils high in saturated and trans fats
    • Choose low-fat dairy products
    • Choose white meat (fish, poultry) and cut down on red meat (beef, pork, lamb)
    • Increase fiber and cut down on refined products
  2. Exercise to decrease stroke risk by 30%, according to the CDC.
    • Get at least 25-30 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walk, jogging, etc.) at least four times a week.
  3. If you use alcohol, limit yourself to two drinks per day (men) and one drink per day (non-pregnant women).
  4. If you’re overweight, losing even 5 to 10% of your starting weight can lower your blood pressure and other stroke risk factors, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  5. If you have sleep apnea, treatment or use of a C-Pap machine significantly reduces stroke risk.
  6. Stop smoking – it increases your stroke risk five-fold, according to the CDC. Secondhand smoke can increase your stroke risk, so reduce or eliminate your exposure.
  7. Don’t use illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin and amphetamines.
  8. Manage chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol with lifestyle changes and medications if needed.
  9. Know the signs of stroke and seek help immediately.
    • Sudden loss of balance
    • Sudden change in vision
    • Face drooping, uneven smile
    • Arm numbness or weakness
    • Slurred speech, difficulty speaking

If you’re concerned about your stroke risk, talk to your provider. Together, you can develop a plan for improving your risk and your overall health.

“Stroke Facts." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Feb. 2021,
"Association of Diet Quality with Risk of Stroke: A Prospective Cohort Study," Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH; Renata Micha, PhD; Eric B. Rimm, ScD; Meir J. Stampfer, MD, DrPH; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; and Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, “Stroke,” March 2010.


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