Let's Talk About Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke

Updated:Dec 9,2015

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?

  1. Call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) to learn more about stroke or find local support groups, or visit StrokeAssociation.org.
  2. Sign up to get Stroke Connection magazine, a free magazine for stroke survivors and caregivers at strokeconnection.org.
  3. 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

Multi-language Fact Sheet Topics

Heart-related Conditions
What is Angina?
What is an Arrhythmia?
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
What Do My Cholesterol Levels Mean?
How Can I Improve My Cholesterol?
What Are High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides?
What Is High Blood Pressure?
How Can I Reduce High Blood Pressure?
High Blood Pressure and Stroke
What Is Diabetes and How Can I Manage It?
How Can I Live With Heart Failure?
What Is Heart Failure?
What Is a Heart Attack?
How Will I Recover From My Heart Attack?
What Are the Warning Signs of Heart Attack?
What Are Heart Disease and Stroke?
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

Stroke, Recovery and Caregiving
Hemorrhagic Stroke
Ischemic Stroke
Stroke, TIA and Warning Signs
What Are the Warning Signs of Stroke?
Stroke Risk Factors
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke
Stroke Diagnosis
Complications After Stroke
Changes Caused by Stroke
Emotional Changes After Stroke
Feeling Tired After a Stroke
Stroke and Aphasia
Stroke and Rehabilitation
Stroke Family Caregivers
How Should I Care for Myself as a Caregiver?

Treatment, Tests and Procedures
What is Cholesterol-Lowering Medicine?
What is High Blood Pressure Medicine?
What Are Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet Agents?
How Do I Manage My Medicines?
What Is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator?
What Is a Pacemaker?
What Is Coronary Angioplasty?
What is a Stent?
What is Coronary Bypass Surgery?
What is a Coronary Angiogram?
How Can I Recover From Heart Surgery?
What is Carotid Endarterectomy?

Healthy Lifestyle and Risk Reduction
How Can I Manage My Weight?
How Can Physical Activity Become a Way of Life?
Why Should I Be Physically Active?
How Do I Follow a Healthy Diet?
How Can I Cook Healthfully?
Why Should I Limit Sodium?
How Do I Understand "Nutrition Facts" Labels?
How Can I Quit Smoking?
How Can I Manage Stress?
How Can I Make My Lifestyle Healthier?
How Can I Monitor My Cholesterol, Blood Pressure and Weight?