Stroke Prevention By Heidi Moawad, MD - Reviewed by a board-certified physician. Updated August 10, 2016 A stroke can make you feel that you don't have control over your life. However, medical research is bringing to light increasing evidence that we have more control over stroke prevention than most of us ever realized. In fact, a Swedish study showed that stroke is largely caused by habits that begin as early as the teen years. Nevertheless, it has been proven that even if you did not practice healthy habits during your young adulthood, you can still work towards preventing stroke by actively changing your lifestyle routines for the better. Stroke prevention requires a two-pronged approach. One aspect of stroke prevention is based on modifiable lifestyle habits. And the other aspect of stroke prevention is focused on resolutely pursuing the best health care throughout your life.The Stroke Prevention Lifestyle A stroke prevention lifestyle is about maintaining consistent habits that fight stroke every single day. These stroke prevention habits apply to just about everyone, and they do require a bit of deliberate planning. Article Speaking 2 Languages Protects Your Brain From Stroke Article Bleeding and Other Complications of Blood Thinners In addition to preventing stroke, these actions contribute to your ability to live an energetic and enjoyable day-to-day life.Healthy Eating Healthy eating can be challenging for two major reasons. The first is that most of us don't intuitively know what a truly healthy diet includes. Between some reports that vilify real fats and sugars and other reports that equally malign their artificial substitutes, it is tough to figure out a fast and easy rule of thumb that outlines what healthy eating really is. Fortunately, some consistent guidelines are finally emerging to help define the healthy and nutritious foods that prevent stroke. Antioxidants, abundant in fresh produce, nuts, and fish, are key to fighting stroke. Trans fats, a type of fat that contributes to stroke, is becoming easier to identify in the food you buy. And nutrients such as protein have also been associated with stroke prevention. The other challenge when it comes to healthy eating is that it is tough to consistently stick to a beneficial cuisine while avoiding harmful ingredients. These shopping and cooking tips can help you make a nutritious stroke-fighting diet a simpler and more consistent part of your life. Exercise Stroke prevention exercise does not have to be on par with competitive physical training. Overall, even modest exercise has been proven to help protect against stroke. When it comes to exercise, getting started is one tough step, while staying consistent is even more difficult. The best way to ensure that you will start to exercise and continue to exercise is to choose physical activities that are enjoyable for you. You probably don’t realize it, but at least a few different types of activities that you like to do "count" as exercise. Article New Guidelines for Blood Pressure Targets Article Dental Problems Can Lead to Stroke Maintaining a Moderate WeightObesity is a risk factor for stroke. Weight loss is never an easy task. And the sooner you reach a desirable weight, the less the weight will affect your health for the long term. Diet and exercise are the cornerstones of maintaining a fit weight. And when those methods do not work, weight loss surgery has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity-associated death, specifically by preventing from stroke. While obesity increases your chances of having a stroke, being underweight is also a stroke danger. Being underweight increases the chances of stroke death. Therefore, it is important to maintain moderation in weight goals, rather than extremes.Don't Smoke Smoking is one of the most aggressive causes of stroke. Almost all smokers agree that it is extremely difficult to quit smoking. Yet, there have been so many different methods that are indeed effective when it comes to smoking cessation. Between self-prescribed schedules to accountability partners to prescription smoking cessation aids, many smokers have been able to permanently cut the smoking habit, which is a powerful way of preventing stroke. Moderation in Alcohol Alcohol has been known to damage a number of our body systems. And medical studies show that heavy alcohol consumption is associated with stroke. Drinking alcohol occasionally and in sensible amounts has not been linked to stroke. Widely cited research suggests that red wine may be linked with a decreased risk of stroke. While red wine might contain some components that are safe or even helpful in preventing stroke, the evidence is not strong enough for you to start drinking red wine solely to prevent stroke. Don't Use Drugs Recreational drugs have been linked with stroke. Cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and even herbal versions of Viagra have all been associated with stroke. Most recreational drugs are highly addictive, so avoiding drugs is the best way to avoid addiction and to avoid drug-induced strokes. Prioritizing Your Peace of Mind Your peace of mind is tough to measure. But that has not stopped scientists from measuring how emotional aggravation affects stroke. Article How Much Alcohol Causes a Stroke? Article Can Tea Reduce Stroke Risk? Deliberately focusing on relaxation has been shown to prevent stroke. Other lifestyle contributors to peace of mind, such as spirituality and caring for a pet, have also been associated with preventing stroke. Knowing Your Value Being a giving and generous person is one of the best things that you can do—not only for the well-being of others—but also for your own well-being. However, feeling that you are being pushed around in life introduces a kind of stress that impacts your emotional health and your physical health. Working long hours and working shift hours have both been associated with stroke, especially when you are in a situation of feeling intimidated at work or insecure about whether you will be able to keep your job.Posttraumatic stress disorder, a byproduct of major life trauma, has also been associated with stroke. And if your home life and marriage are on disarray, that also has been shown to be associated with stroke. So, what does all of this mean in terms of stroke prevention? It means that when you find yourself in an emotional plummet you need to understand that you deserve to get the help you need to get out of that pit. Whether it is a mean boss or tormenting memories of being a victim, you deserve to get to a place where you believe in yourself and value yourself. And asking for help to get to that place could be the most valuable thing you ever do. Taking Advantage of the Healthcare System to Prevent Stroke Lifestyle habits can help prevent a stroke by thwarting the ways that we can make ourselves sick. However, sometimes a stroke is caused by health conditions that are not manageable through lifestyle habits. The healthcare system is there for your benefit, and you should take advantage of the professional resources that are out there for you.Get Regular CheckupsGetting recommended physicals is more valuable in preventing stroke than most people realize. Did you know that stroke screening is built right in to your routine physical? When your doctor listens to your heartbeat and checks your pulse, she is actually assessing your stroke risk. Blood disorders that increase the risk of stroke can be detected on standard blood tests. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are all conditions that are screened for on your regular examinations. Keeping these conditions under control is essential in stroke prevention.Telling your doctor about nagging problems, such as hair loss or excessive skin dryness, can alert your doctor to serious medical problems that are linked with stroke. Early diagnosis and effective treatment of emerging medical issues is the best way to prevent serious complications.Take Your Medication You can achieve health like the wealthiest of the wealthy by simple acts such as filling your prescriptions and taking your medications. Stroke prevention medications do not usually produce an obvious or immediate effect. So it may be tempting to skip your medication that was prescribed for stroke prevention. However, even if you can't see a superficial benefit, medications for stroke prevention are of utmost importance to your health. Ask Questions and Understand You are absolutely entitled to get answers to your health questions. Stroke prevention may seem complicated at times. Your healthcare team can help you understand all of your medical concerns. The Internet is known for health myths, but you can also effectively use the Internet to find accurate and trustworthy information as you navigate your health and wellness. Gadgets There are a number of tools that you can use at home to help your healthcare team gather important information about your blood pressure, your pulse, your sleep, and even your fluid intake. Gadgets that manage your health can be a nice and practical gift that you give to yourself. Health Insurance Take charge of understanding your own health insurance. The intricacies and complicated details of the healthcare system actually scare some people away from getting needed care. It is worthwhile to take the time to sort out the details of your policy and to find out which kinds of preventive care you are entitled to and to know what you should do in case you experience a health emergency. Taking these pre-emptive steps can help you overcome intimidating hitches that may come up as you navigate the health care system. A Word From VerywellPreventing a stroke adds an average of 12 and a half years to your life. And a fact that most people do not think about is that the actual financial cost of a stroke is surprisingly high, so preventing a stroke saves a great deal of money in the long term.Stroke prevention is not passive. It does take deliberate effort, some know-how regarding stroke prevention habits, and a pursuit of the health care that you already have available at your fingertips. One important fact about stroke prevention is that nobody ever regretted working towards preventing stroke.Sources: Högström G, Nordström A, Eriksson M, Nordström P. Risk factors assessed in adolescence and the later risk of stroke in men: a 33-year follow-up study. Cerebrovascular Disease. 2015. Oude Griep LM, Verschuren WM, Kromhout D, Ocké MC, Geleijnse JM. Raw and processed fruit and vegetable consumption and 10-year stroke incidence in a population-based cohort study in the Netherlands. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011.