Posted by Lisa O’Neill Hill
About one in four people who’ve had a stroke will have a second, statistics show. If you’ve had a stroke, it’s important to work with your doctor to address the underlying cause or causes—whether that’s high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, another health issue, or a combination of factors.
The idea of a second stroke can be terrifying. But here’s the good news: By following medical advice and embracing healthier habits, you can greatly reduce your risk of a reoccurrence.
Unsure what to do? Follow these recommendations:
Follow your doctor’s orders. If your doctor has prescribed medicine such as a blood thinner, a blood pressure medication or a statin—a medication for high cholesterol—take it and take it as directed. Aspirin and similar medicines reduce the risk of blood clots that can cause a stroke. Taking a statin can reduce your chance of a stroke even if your cholesterol is normal.
Control your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to get it within normal ranges or lower. High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for stroke; having high blood pressure damages your arteries and makes them more likely to clog or burst. Taking blood pressure medication may help you even if your blood pressure isn’t high.
Stop smoking. Smoking damages your blood vessels and allows blood clots to form more easily. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor. Don’t give up. Most people try quitting many times before they are successful.
Exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day on most days. Some people enjoy starting or ending the day with a brisk walk. If you have physical limitations, work with your doctor or physical therapist to find an exercise routine you can do.
Eat good-for-you foods. Focus on vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Consider a Mediterranean-style diet, which focuses on those foods as well as fish, olive oil and nuts. Limit unhealthy fats like butter and avoid lots of salty foods.
Limit your alcohol intake. Having more than one to two drinks a day greatly increases the stroke risk in people who haven’t had a stroke, studies show. Drinking too much can make your blood pressure high.
Control other health conditions. If you have diabetes or atrial fibrillation—a type of irregular heartbeat—work with your doctor to get them under control. Both can increase stroke risk.