You can do plenty to make your heart and blood vessels healthy, even if you’ve had a stroke. A healthy lifestyle plays a big part in decreasing your risk for disability and death from stroke and heart attack.
How can I make my lifestyle healthier?
Here are the steps to take to be healthier and reduce your risk of stroke:
- Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
- Improve your eating habits. Eat foods low in saturdated fat, trans fat, sodium and added sugars.
- Be physically active.
- Take your medicine as directed.
- Get your blood pressure checked regularly and work with your healthcare provider to manage it if it's high.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Decrease your stress level.
- Seek emotional support when it’s needed.
- Have regular medical checkups.
How do I stop smoking?
- The first and more important step is making a decision to quit — and commit to stick to it.
- Ask your healthcare provider for information, programs and medications that may help.
- Fight the urge to smoke by going to smoke-free facilities. Avoid staying around people who smoke.
- Keep busy doing things that make it hard to smoke, like working in the yard.
- Remind yourself that smoking causes many diseases, can harm others and is deadly.
- Ask your family and friends to support you.
How do I change my eating habits?
- Ask your doctor, nurse or a licensed nutritionist or registered dietician for help.
- Be aware of your special needs, especially if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.
- Avoid foods like fatty meats, butter and cream, which are high in saturated fat.
- Eat moderate amounts of food and cut down on saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and salt.
- Bake, broil, roast and boil foods instead of frying.
- Read nutrition labels on packaged meals. Many are very high in sodium.
- Limit alcohol to one drink a day for women; two drinks per day for men.
- Eat more fruit, vegetables, whole-grains, dried peas and beans, pasta, fish, poultry and lean meats.
What about physical activity?
- If you have a chronic medical condition, check with your doctor before you start.
- Start slowly and build up to at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) a week. Or, you can do 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination of the two, to improve overall cardiovascular health.
- Look for even small chances to be more active. Take the stairs instead of an elevator and park farther from your destination.
How can I learn more?
- Call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) to learn more about stroke or find local support groups, or visit StrokeAssociation.org.
- Sign up to get Stroke Connection magazine, a free magazine for stroke survivors and caregivers at strokeconnection.org.
- Connect with others sharing similar journeys with stroke by joining our Support Network at strokeassociation.org/supportnetwork.
We have many other fact sheets to help you make healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage disease or care for a loved one. Visit strokeassociation.org/letstalkaboutstroke to learn more.
Do you have questions for your doctor or nurse?
Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider:
What is the most important change I can make?
What kind of physical activity can I do safely?
©2015, American Heart Association