What can you do to prevent it and improve your self-care?

The risk factors include:

  • Smoking. If you smoke, you should make every effort to stop. The chemicals in tobacco are carried in your bloodstream and can damage your arteries. If you smoke, stopping smoking can greatly cut your risk of having a stroke.

  • High blood pressure. Make sure your blood pressure is checked at least once a year. If it is high it can be treated. High blood pressure usually causes no symptoms but can be damaging to the arteries. If you have high blood pressure, treatment of the blood pressure is likely to have the greatest effect on reducing your risk of having a stroke.

  • If you are overweight, losing some weight is advised.

  • A high cholesterol level. This can be treated if it is high.

  • Inactivity. If able, you should aim to do some moderate physical activity on most days of the week for at least 30 minutes. For example, brisk walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, gardening, etc.

  • Diet. You should aim to eat a healthy diet. Briefly, a healthy diet means:

    • at least five portions or ideally 7-9 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day.

    • a third of most meals should be starch-based foods (such as cereals, wholegrain bread, potatoes, rice, pasta), plus fruit and vegetables.

    • not much fatty food such as fatty meats, cheeses, full-cream milk, fried food, butter, etc. Use low-fat, mono- or poly-unsaturated spreads.

    • include two to three portions of fish per week. At least one of these should be oily (such as herring, mackerel, sardines, kippers, pilchards, salmon or fresh tuna).

    • If you eat red meat, it is best to eat lean red meat or poultry such as chicken.

    • If you do fry, choose a vegetable oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive.

    • Try not to add salt to food, and limit foods which are salty.

  • Alcohol. Do not drink more than the recommended limits. That is, men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week, no more than four units in any one day and have at least two alcohol-free days a week. Women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, no more than three units in any one day and have at least two alcohol-free days a week. Pregnant women should not drink at all. One unit is in about half a pint of normal strength beer, or two thirds of a small glass of wine, or one small pub measure of spirits.

  • Diabetes is a risk factor. If you have diabetes, treatment to keep your blood sugar as near normal as possible is important.

People with atrial fibrillation have an increased risk of having a stroke. This increased risk can also be reduced. See this leaflet called Preventing Stroke When You Have Atrial Fibrillation for more details.

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