Reducing Your Risk for Stroke

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When stroke warning signs and symptoms appear, dial 9-1-1 immediately.


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Though 750,000 people in the United States suffer strokes each year, the National Stroke Association Web site says 80 percent of strokes are preventable.


We asked UW Hospital and Clinics Stroke Program Coordinator Christine Whelley to tell us the best things people can do to reduce their risks for stroke. Here's what she said.


Things You Can Do Yourself


Stop smoking. Call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line (1-877-270-STOP) or access our smoking cessation services to get the support you need to quit smoking.


Eat a healthy diet. Start with fresh fruits and vegetables. Add in lean protein such as white meat, chicken without the skin, fish and lean cuts of beef and pork. Build in enough carbohydrates to make the meal tasty. Avoid fats and fried foods.


Lower your BMI (Body Mass Index). As BMI increases, the risk for stroke and heart disease increases. Good eating habits and exercise may help to control weight. If you are overweight, you have a higher chance of having Type 2 Diabetes and increased cholesterol levels. Find out your BMI


Exercise. If you are not physically active, add a few minutes of activity into each day, gradually building up to 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activities. If you are now active, but at less than the recommended levels, try to increase your exercise.


Manage your stress. Plan for quiet time, time alone, prayer, meditation, deep breathing or relaxation. Maintain a positive attitude.


Avoid dehydration. During the summer months, you should drink at least two quarts of liquid each day.


Have your blood pressure checked yearly or more often, if needed. Normal levels are less than 130/80. If your blood pressure is higher than this, call your doctor.



Things You Can Do With Your Doctor


Decide on the best choice of blood thinners. Use them as prescribed. Do not stop blood thinners without letting your doctor know. If a doctor asks you to stop taking a blood thinner for more than four days, the person who prescribed the blood thinner should be informed.


Keep your blood pressure less than 130/80. If your blood pressure is found to be higher, talk with your doctor and have it taken again in a week and then several times per year.


If you have diabetes, talk with your health care team about ways to best manage it. Uncontrolled diabetes also increases your risk of stroke.


Keep your cholesterol levels under control. Learn what you can do to reduce high levels.


Things Women Can Do


Women who have had any signs of a stroke and have migraines should be cautious about taking birth control pills, hormone replacements or decongestants.


If you are postmenopausal and have had any signs of stroke, discuss the risks of hormone replacement with your doctor.