Quit Smoking- Smoking cigarettes increases the buildup of dangerous plaque in your arteries and thickens your blood, two things that make a stroke more likely. It also has numerous other horrible effects on your health. Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble quitting; they may be able to prescribe a smoking cessation aid to help you quit.
Lower Your Blood Pressure- You should be monitoring your blood pressure as often as possible; after all, hypertension contributes more to your risk of stroke than any other factor. If your blood pressure is at an unhealthy level, you can lower it with some of the other items on this list (like exercising and quitting smoking) as well as by reducing your intake of salt and cholesterol. Blood pressure medicine can help as well, so see your doctor if you think you’re at risk.
Get Checked for Atrial Fibrillation- An irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart, atrial fibrillation is one of the strongest predictors of a stroke (it makes one five times more likely). Luckily, it’s treatable. If you experience palpitations or difficulty breathing, see your doctor. He may prescribe blood thinners to treat your problem (and ward off a potentially fatal stroke).
Eat Better- This goes hand in hand with exercise. Keeping your body mass index or BMI in a healthy range (below 25 for most people) is a great way to reduce your risk of a stroke, a heart attack, or numerous other obesity-related health problems. Try cutting out unhealthy carbohydrates, fats, and sugars. You don’t need to slim down to nothing: even losing a few pounds reduces your stroke risk greatly.
Drink Only in Moderation- Drinking excessively can raise your risk of a stroke by a great deal, so if you’re drinking more than a few drinks a day or binging on alcohol on weekends, you should cut down. But studies have shown that moderate drinking can actually reduce your risk. That being said, the definition of moderate is pretty strict. Doctors suggest you limit yourself to a single drink a day, and they recommend heart-healthy red wine. If you’re the type to put away a fifth of Jack Daniels, you’d be better off to quit entirely.
There you have it: a few relatively simple ways to combat your risk of a stroke. Some may seem like sacrifices, but in the long run, retaining your mental function and staying alive is worth hitting the gym a few times a week or ditching your smoking habit.