From – Originally published in the 2011 Irish Pensioner’s Handbook

Your risk of getting a stroke is increased by certain things in your lifestyle which you can change, and by certain things about you, such as your age or your family history, which you cannot change.
The good news is that by making small changes to your lifestyle and by taking medications for certain conditions as directed by your doctor, you can reduce your risk of stroke.
How can you reduce your risk of stroke?
1. Know your blood pressure – the only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured. If you are over 30, you should have your blood pressure checked every two or three years.
2. Medication – If you have been prescribed medication for high blood pressure, you will usually have to take it for life. Medication that lowers blood pressure prevents early ageing of the blood vessels and heart and thereby reduces your risk of stroke.
3. Stop smoking – Stopping smoking will almost halve your chances of having a stroke regardless of how long you have been a smoker, or how old you are. Within 24 hours of stopping smoking, the chance of you suffering a stroke begins to fall.
4. Eat a balanced diet – Healthy eating can reduce your risk of stroke. Aim to eat a wide variety of foods. Using the Food Pyramid as a guide will help make sure you get all the vitamins, minerals, fibre and goodness you need from your food.
5. Manage your weight – Being overweight increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes – losing a small amount of excess weight, even 10%, can help lower your blood pressure. Aim for gradual weight loss of one to two pounds a week and watch your portion sizes. The best way to lose weight is to cut down on the amount of fat, sugar, sweet foods, and sugary drinks and be more physically active.
6. Drink less alcohol – If you do drink, spread your drinking over the week, keep some days alcohol-free and do not drink more than the recommended upper limits: for men 21 standards drinks per week; for women 14 standard drinks per week.
7. Prevent or manage diabetes – If you have diabetes you have a greater risk of stroke. Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) is too high. Insulin, a hormone produced by your body, helps control your blood glucose. If your body does not produce enough insulin, this is Type 1 diabetes. When your body does not respond as well to insulin, this is Type 2 diabetes. Prevent or manage diabetes by watching your diet, being more physically active, controlling your weight and managing your blood pressure.
8. Be more physically active – Regular physical activity helps lower blood pressure, keeps cholesterol at a healthy level, prevents blood clotting, maintains a healthy weight, and controls sugar levels.
9. Manage your stress – The link between stress and stroke is complex and not fully understood. If you feel stressed, your blood will produce more hormones. Although useful in small amounts, too many of these hormones continuously and over time, can damage your blood vessels and may lead to high blood pressure. Also, when life becomes more pressurised, you are more likely to smoke more cigarettes, drink more caffeine, drink too much alcohol and be less physically active. All increase your risk of stroke.
– For further information contact the Irish Heart Foundation
Heart and Stroke Helpline: 1890 424 787 (Monday to Friday: 10am to 5pm)
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