Welcome to Ipswich Hospital
Our Passion, Your Care

Tuesday, 12 December 2017
Stroke prevention

The best way to prevent a stroke is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and avoid smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol.


Diet

A poor diet is a major risk factor for a stroke. High-fat foods can lead to the build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries, and being overweight can lead to high blood pressure.

A low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day) and whole grains.

You should limit the daily amount of salt you consume to no more than 6g (0.2oz) a day because too much salt will increase your blood pressure. Six grams of salt is about one teaspoonful.

There are two types of fat – saturated and unsaturated.

You should avoid food containing saturated fats because these will increase your cholesterol levels.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • meat pies 
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat 
  • butter 
  • lard 
  • cream 
  • hard cheese 
  • cakes and biscuits 
  • foods that contain coconut or palm oil.

 

A balanced diet should include a small amount of unsaturated fat, which will help reduce your cholesterol levels.

Foods high in unsaturated fat include:

  • oily fish 
  • avocados 
  • nuts and seeds 
  • sunflower, rapeseed, olive and vegetable oils.

 

Exercise

Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure.

Regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient. It will also lower your cholesterol level and keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

The recommended level of cholesterol is 5mmol/litre (5 millimoles per litre of blood).

 

Blood pressure

Blood pressure is measured using two figures. One figure represents the pressure of the heart as it contracts to pump blood around the body. This is known as the systolic pressure. The second figure represents the pressure of the heart as it rests, expands and fills with blood, while waiting for the next contraction. This is known as the diastolic pressure.

For most people, an ideal blood pressure is a systolic pressure of less than 140 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and a diastolic pressure of less than 90mmHg. This is typically expressed as 140/90. After a stroke the target blood pressure is 130/80.

For most people, at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (for example cycling or fast walking) every week is recommended.

If you are recovering from a stroke, you should discuss possible exercise plans with the members of your rehabilitation team. Regular exercise may be impossible in the first weeks or months following a stroke but you should be able to begin exercising once your rehabilitation has progressed.

 

Smoking

Smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke. This is because it narrows your arteries and makes your blood more likely to clot.

If you stop smoking, you can reduce your risk of having a stroke by up to half. Not smoking will also improve your general health and reduce your risk of developing other serious conditions, such as lung cancer and heart disease.

The NHS Smoking Helpline can offer advice and encouragement to help you quit smoking. You can call on 0800 022 4332, or visit NHS Smokefree.

 

Alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). Both are major risk factors for stroke.

Because alcoholic drinks are rich in energy (high in calories) they also cause weight gain. Heavy drinking multiplies the risk of stroke by more than three times.