Don’t Let Stroke Strike Twice: Tips for Preventing a Second Stroke

person eating healthy to prevent stroke

More than 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year. And 23% of those who survive have another one–which could be fatal.

Not every stroke can be prevented, but adopting healthy habits can significantly reduce your risk. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association created “Life’s Essential 8,” a set of lifestyle tips to prevent stroke and support overall health.

Let’s explore their recommendations and how these habits can be helpful for preventing a second stroke–or a first.

Preventing a second stroke with healthy lifestyle habits

Quit smoking. 

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health–and the benefits start almost immediately. Just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure–a significant stroke risk factor–begins to drop.

Within a year of quitting, your heart disease risk decreases considerably, and after two to five years, your stroke risk lessens to about that of nonsmokers.

Quitting smoking is undeniably tough. But with preparation and planning, you can do it. Every day without cigarettes contributes to a healthier, longer life.

Get active. 

Exercise helps reduce high blood pressure–a significant stroke risk factor–and aids in managing other stroke-contributing conditions like obesity and high cholesterol.

Studies show intense physical activity during leisure time can reduce stroke risk by an impressive 20-25% compared to a sedentary lifestyle. Even moderate activity levels may reduce your risk by 15%.

Aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise weekly, and try incorporating more movement into your daily life. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the store instead of driving, and/or take stretch breaks throughout the day.

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Eat a heart-healthy diet. 

An unhealthy diet can heighten your stroke risk due to factors like insulin resistance, inflammation, and high cholesterol. Alternatively, a nutritious diet can mitigate these risks.

For example, studies show following the Mediterranean diet can lower stroke risk by up to 20%. The DASH Diet is another heart-healthy choice with huge benefits. Both diets emphasize whole foods and healthy fats.

To adopt a diet that supports stroke prevention:

  • Prioritize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Opt for healthy fats like olive oil and avocado.
  • Choose lean proteins like fish and poultry over red meat.
  • Include legumes and nuts for added nutrients.
  • Avoid fried, processed, and sugar-laden foods.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just about fitting into smaller clothes. It directly impacts your health, decreasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

On the other hand, carrying extra weight can stress the circulatory system and increase stroke risks like high blood pressure, diabetes, and sleep apnea. Even shedding 5-10% of your body weight can notably reduce these potential threats.

Losing weight and maintaining it involves a combination of healthy eating and increased physical activity. Remember, it’s about adopting sustainable habits rather than quick fixes. Every healthy choice you make can help prevent a second stroke.

Get enough sleep. 

Sleep deprivation can lead to inflammation, often due to raised cortisol levels–which can increase your risk of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.

Furthermore, blood pressure typically drops at night–so missing this nighttime “dip” heightens your risk. Even a 5% reduction in this nighttime “dip” can increase your risk of cardiovascular-related mortality by 20%.

Related:   Lifestyle changes can prevent stroke

Aim for at least seven hours of quality sleep every night. If you have trouble falling asleep, develop a relaxing bedtime routine. Try a hot bath, warm chamomile tea, and/or meditation.

Control cholesterol. 

Large amounts of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the blood can cause a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries, which can get stiff or narrow (a condition called atherosclerosis). This can damage the artery wall, cause blood clots, and lead to stroke or heart attack.

Keep your cholesterol in check by:

  • Reducing your fat intake, especially trans fats (found in fried foods and baked goods)
  • Consuming more omega-3 fatty acids (in fish, nuts, or supplements)
  • Increasing your soluble fiber intake
  • Trying whey protein, which has been proven to lower LDL and total cholesterol as well as blood pressure

Manage blood pressure. 

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke.

Of the 119.9 million (48.1%) people in the United States who have high blood pressure, fewer than half have it under control, putting them at increased risk of stroke. Even lowering your blood pressure by 20 points could cut your risk of dying from a stroke by half.

Adopting the healthy habits listed above will naturally help lower your blood pressure. Some additional tips are:

  • Reducing your sodium intake
  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Consuming less caffeine
  • Getting more potassium (from foods like avocados, sweet potatoes, and spinach) which helps ease tension in your blood vessel walls
  • Practicing stress management techniques like deep breathing or meditation

Control blood sugar. 

Every two minutes in the U.S., an adult with diabetes is hospitalized due to a stroke. And sadly, a 60-year-old patient with type 2 diabetes and a prior stroke history can expect their life expectancy to be reduced by 12 years compared to peers without these conditions.

Related:   5 Top Foods to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

Diabetes, characterized by high blood sugar levels, significantly heightens your risk of stroke. This is largely because excess sugar harms blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis.

Often, acute stroke patients have elevated blood glucose. Higher glucose levels are linked to graver outcomes, higher mortality, and limited recovery.

But by actively managing your diabetes through health lifestyle habits and partnering with your healthcare provider, you can significantly curb your stroke risk.

Embracing these healthy habits can work wonders for preventing a second stroke. Try adopting these practices to pave the way to greater health and a longer, more vibrant life.

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm#:~:text=Every%20year%2C%20more%20than%20795%2C000,United%20States%20have%20a%20stroke.

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Author
Carrie Solomon

Carrie Solomon is a freelance health writer, copywriter, and passionate wellness enthusiast. She’s on a mission to help wellness-focused companies educate, engage, and inspire their audiences to make the world a healthier, happier place. Learn more about her at copybycarrie.com or on LinkedIn.

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