10 Strategies to Reverse Your Stroke Risk

If you are at high risk of stroke, that doesn't necessarily mean that you are locked into a fate of having a stroke. The most common stroke risk factors are reversible, and you can reduce your chances of having a stroke with medical management and a few simple lifestyle habits.

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1. Prevent or Reverse Vascular Disease

Slow, progressive disease of the blood vessels in the brain, the neck or the heart is the root cause of most strokes. When the blood vessels in the brain are damaged, a condition called cerebrovascular disease, this can cause numerous small stroke.

Joint guidelines published by the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) note the risk for stroke is higher in patients with silent cerebrovascular disease, and doctors should consider this risk when making treatment decisions for other vascular conditions.

How would you know if you have vascular disease? Most people don’t until the symptoms develop. However, your blood vessels can actually heal and repair if you take the necessary steps to help them recover. These steps include lowering your blood pressure, controlling diabetes, maintaining normal cholesterol levels and not smoking.

2. Control Your Diabetes

Improved diabetes management is one of the most amazing feats of modern medicine. Your primary care physician can determine whether you have diabetes during a routine check-up.

What if you have diabetes? People living with diabetes run marathons, fly planes, and climb mountains. Poorly controlled diabetes, however, leads to a lifetime of disease and disability and is one of the leading risk factors of stroke

3. Maintain a Healthy Blood Pressure

Too many people do not even know that they have hypertension. Don’t be one of those people. Get your blood pressure checked, and, if it is high, adapt your diet and take the medication prescribed by your doctor to get your blood pressure to a normal range.

Hypertension is a controllable medical condition. But, uncontrolled hypertension damages the inner lining of blood vessels and restricts their elasticity, making them prone to stroke-causing blood clots.

The risk for stroke in pregnant women with preeclampsia and uncontrolled hypertension is amplified. Joint guidelines from AHA/ASA on the prevention of stroke in women strongly recommend antihypertensive medications and close monitoring of vascular health following delivery to help control for heightened stroke risks.

4. Get Medical Attention for Your Heart Disease

Heart disease is a leading cause of large strokes. If you have an irregular heartbeat or if you have heart weakness, valve disease or cardiovascular disease, you need to take the steps to get care for your heart condition.

You most likely would not know if you have any of these heart problems unless you get a physical. Most people who are living with undiagnosed heart disease only notice mild shortness of breath or fatigue and some people with heart disease don’t notice any symptoms until it is almost too late to take care of the problem. Treat yourself to a yearly physical so your doctor can catch problems such as heart disease while it is still early.

5. Discontinue Drugs

Drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine are intensely addictive and notoriously difficult to stop using. However, the use of these potent drugs of abuse can cause a sudden stroke, even if you have already used these drugs without getting sick. Because a stroke is life-threatening and potentially severely disabling, the arduous process of detox and rehab is well worth it.

6. Stop Smoking

No smoker wants to hear this. But the good news is that if you stop smoking, the damaging effects of smoking actually reverse. The longer you wait until you stop smoking, the longer it takes to repair the harmful toll smoking takes on your body. Your blood vessels need to heal after years of injury from smoking. The healing takes time and it can't start until you stop exposing your body to the harmful toxins of cigarette smoke.

7. Get Your Blood Triglyceride and Cholesterol Levels to Normal

High blood cholesterol and fat such as triglycerides come from 2 sources—through your diet and your body's own production of fats and cholesterol. Changing your diet is enough to lower those levels for some people, while medication may be necessary for other individuals. Find out if your levels are high and take action to get them to normal. Decreasing your blood levels of cholesterol and trans fat is an achievable goal that cuts your stroke risk.

8. Adopt a Stroke Prevention Diet

It is not completely understood why processed foods can lead to a stroke. But it is known that consuming fish, fresh fruit, and vegetables, protein and fiber can reduce your risk of stroke.

Swapping out fresh foods for packaged junk food is a challenge. Junk food is convenient, doesn't spoil easily and provides quick satisfaction. So, the only way to switch over to more fresh food is to do so deliberately. Adjust your shopping and your daily habits and learn how popular diets affect your stroke risk.

9. Get Physically Active

If you aren't one of those people who is always motivated to strive for more and more challenging exercise, you aren't alone! Overall, people are leading a more sedentary lifestyle than ever before. After all, you can do practically anything without even getting up from your computer or phone. Getting up and getting moving doesn't have to be hard. Start with some of these simple ways to get started building up a healthy level of physical activity.

10. Manage Your Stress Level

Stress due to your day-to-day life increases your risk of stroke. Reducing stress requires taking action to reduce the cause of stress — a terrible job or a bad relationship. But sometimes, due to the complicated circumstances of life, you may need to work on altering your response to stress if you are in an unchangeable situation.​

Severe stress, the kind that causes PTSD, also increases the chances of having a stroke. No one can change the past, but you can work on preventing your future from being defined by your past.

A Word From Verywell

Stroke risk factors, whether due to inherited physical factors or to harmful lifestyle habits, can be changed to substantially decrease your risk of stroke, which can increase your life by an expected 12 1/2 years.

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  1. Smith EE, Saposnik G, Biessels GJ, et al. American Heart Association Stroke Council; Council on Cardiovascular Radiology and Intervention; Council on Functional Genomics and Translational Biology; and Council on Hypertension. Prevention of Stroke in Patients With Silent Cerebrovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2017 Feb;48(2):e44-e71. doi: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000116.

  2. Bushnell C, McCullough LD, et al. American Heart Association Stroke Council; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Epidemiology and Prevention; Council for High Blood Pressure Research. Guidelines for the prevention of stroke in women: a statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2014 May;45(5):1545-88. doi: 10.1161/01.str.0000442009.06663.48.

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