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How to Prevent a Stroke

Know your risk for stroke. Many stroke risk factors can be changed, treated, or medically modified. Some things you can do to control your risk factors are listed below.


Lifestyle changes

A healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk for stroke. That includes the following:

  • Stop smoking, if you smoke.
  • Make healthy food choices. Be sure to get the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose foods that are low in animal fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active on a daily basis.
  • Limit alcohol use.

Medicines

Take your medicines as instructed by your healthcare provider. The following medicines can help prevent stroke:

  • Blood-thinning medicines (anticoagulants) help prevent blood clots from forming. If you take a blood thinner, you may need regular blood tests.
  • Antiplatelets, such as aspirin, are prescribed for many stroke patients. They make blood clots less likely to form. Aspirin is available over the counter.
  • Blood-pressure medicines help lower high blood pressure. You may need to take more than one blood-pressure medicine.
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs make plaque less likely to build up in your artery walls, which can reduce the risk for stroke.
  • Heart medicines can treat certain heart problems that increase your risk for stroke.
  • Diabetes medicines adjust blood sugar levels. This can prevent problems that lead to stroke.

Surgery

Several types of surgery may be done to help treat a stroke or help to prevent one. These include:

  • Carotid endarterectomy. Carotid endarterectomy is surgery to remove plaque and clots from the carotid arteries, located in the neck. These arteries supply the brain with blood from the heart. Endarterectomy may help stop a stroke from occurring
  • Carotid stenting. A large metal coil (stent) is placed in the carotid artery much like a stent is placed in a coronary artery.
  • Surgery to repair aneurysms and AVMs (arteriovenous malformations). An aneurysm is a weakened, ballooned area on an artery wall. It's at risk for bursting (rupturing) and bleeding into the brain. An AVM is a tangle of arteries and veins. It interferes with blood circulation and puts you at risk for bleeding.
  • PFO (patent foramen ovale) closure. The foramen ovale is an opening that occurs in the wall between the 2 upper chambers of the heart. This opening usually closes right after birth. If the flap does not close, any clots or air bubbles can pass into the brain circulation. This can cause a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack). However, experts are still debating whether the PFO should be closed.
  • Heart surgery to close off part of the atrium (left atrial appendage closure). This can reduce the risk for stroke from blood clots forming in the heart.