Stroke prevention may include taking medications to prevent blood clots, managing high blood pressure and other medical issues, and quitting smoking.
Many strokes are preventable, through controlling the risk factors that can cause them. If you have a stroke, a major part of your ongoing treatment will involve preventive measures to stop you from having another stroke. If you have any conditions that put you at risk for a stroke, you can take measures to decrease the likelihood of having one.
Some of the ways you can prevent a stroke are:
• Medications to prevent blood clots from forming
• Controlling your blood pressure
• Quitting the use of tobacco and moderating alcohol
• Managing other health problems, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea
• Healthy diet and exercise
If you have already had an ischemic stroke, your doctor may prescribe medication that makes it less likely that you’ll experience another blood clot. You may be prescribed aspirin or another medication. Warfarin is a powerful medication that prevents the formation of clots; while you’re taking it, you will need to be careful, because you may bleed a lot if you have an injury, and you will need frequent monitoring to ensure that your blood’s ability to clot isn’t too impaired.
The most common risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high, then lowering it could prevent you from having another stroke. Lifestyle changes, such as changing your diet, exercising, managing stress, and learning relaxation techniques, may help to control your blood pressure. If these are not enough, then you may be prescribed medication to bring your blood pressure down.
Smoking tobacco is strongly associated with strokes. Quitting smoking is very important in preventing you from having a stroke (or another stroke). Even secondhand smoke increases the risk of stroke, so you may want to encourage your family members to quit smoking; this will benefit their own health as well as protecting you.
The use of alcohol has a complicated effect on stroke. One drink a day can actually help to prevent stroke by thinning your blood. However, drinking more than that increases your risk of many health problems, including stroke. Don’t take that as a recommendation to drink once per day; in some cases, alcohol could interact with other medications you’re taking, and it may cause other problems for some people. Talk with your doctor about it to get an idea of whether you should completely avoid or moderate alcohol consumption.
Other health problems can also be associated with stroke. Poorly controlled diabetes is a risk factor for stroke, so you’ll want to address your blood sugar management if you have diabetes. High cholesterol can also lead to both heart attacks and strokes; you may be able to control this with dietary changes, or you may need medication to bring your cholesterol down. Sleep apnea can also be associated with stroke; some people use a machine at night that blows air to keep the airways open.
Additionally, it’s important to do your best to eat healthy food and exercise regularly (ideally, at least 30 minutes of activity each day). This will help to prevent stroke as well as a host of other medical problems.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Preventing Stroke: What You Can Do.” CDC website (2014). http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/prevention.htm
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). “NINDS Stroke Information Page.” NINDS website (2015). http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/stroke/stroke.htm
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Stroke: Symptoms and causes.” Mayo Clinic website (2015). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stroke/symptoms-causes/dxc-20117265