How to reduce your risk of a second stroke

Anyone who has been through a stroke can tell you that once is more than enough! But as a stroke survivor, you have a 1 in 5 chance of having another stroke within just 2 years. And that second stroke is more likely to be fatal compared with the first stroke. For stroke survivors, risk reduction isn't just important, it's a matter of life and death. So while you work on recovery and rehabilitation, think about risk reduction too.

The key to stopping a second stroke is to get a handle on your risk factors. If you've already had a stroke, chances are there is something in your medical history or lifestyle that's putting you at risk. The risk factors for a second stroke are the same as the risk factors for a first stroke.

Some risk factors can't be controlled, but many of them can be controlled. The good news is that you can reduce your risk of stroke by controlling your risk factors.

Here's what you can do:

  1. Live the "stroke risk reduction" lifestyle.*

    Be active (if your doctor recommends it): Check with your doctor before becoming more physically active. If your doctor gives you the green light for more physical activity, start by taking a walk around the block after dinner, and gradually work your way up to about 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days of the week.

    Eat healthy: Aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, and lean protein. Avoid foods that are high in sodium, sugar, and saturated or trans fat.

    Reach a healthy weight: Check your body mass index (BMI). If it's 25 kg/m² or higher, use healthy eating and exercise to reach a BMI of 18.5 kg/m² to 24.9 kg/m².

    Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke: If you smoke, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about quitting. Quitting smoking could help reduce your chances of having a second stroke. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke, think about how you could avoid it.

    Keep an eye on your alcohol use: For women, try to stick to a daily maximum of 2 drinks and a weekly maximum of 10 drinks. For men, try to stick to a daily maximum of 3 drinks and a weekly maximum of 15 drinks.

    Get a handle on your stress: Keep stress under control by taking time for yourself, using humour or deep breathing to cope with a stressful situation, and delegating some of your responsibilities to others.

    *Please note that these suggestions are intended to help reduce the risk of a stroke but are not guaranteed to prevent a stroke. Also, not all of the lifestyle changes listed above are appropriate for everyone; check with your doctor to find out which lifestyle changes are appropriate for you.

  2. Keep medical conditions under control

    Some medical conditions could put you at risk of a second stroke. These may include:

    • atrial fibrillation
    • diabetes
    • high blood pressure
    • high cholesterol

    If you've already been diagnosed with one or more of these conditions, talk to your doctor about how to control them and reduce your risk of stroke recurrence. Please note that the list above does not include all possible medical conditions that may increase the risk of stroke; ask your doctor for more information.

    If you have not been diagnosed with any of these conditions, ask your doctor if you are at risk of or if you should be screened for these medical conditions.

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