Stroke risk: What every caregiver needs to know

Heart Health Medication Management Diet and Fitness


Did you know that every 9 minutes, on average, someone in Canada has a stroke? And that stroke recovery could mean a long process of rehabilitation? Between one-third and two-thirds of stroke survivors experience some form of physical or mental disability that requires some type of rehabilitation. As a caregiver, you want to do everything you can to help the person you're caring for. That's why it's so important to know whether your loved one is at risk of a stroke and what you can do to reduce their risk of stroke.

First, take stock of your loved one's stroke risk. Use the stroke risk calculator to see their risk of stroke in the next 10 years.

Next, follow these steps to help reduce the risk of a stroke:

  1. Support a healthy lifestyle:

    • Offer healthy foods, such as fruit and vegetables, whole-grain products, and low-fat dairy products. Check the food label for sodium (no more than 1300 mg per day for people aged 51 to 70 and 1200 mg per day for people over 70).
    • Help your loved one get more active if their doctor has recommended physical activity. Even a little bit can help! Check with the doctor before starting any new physical activity.
    • Encourage them to quit smoking.
    • Encourage them to cut back on alcohol to a maximum of 2 drinks per week and no more than 2 drinks per occasion.
  2. Help get medical conditions under control:

    Some medical conditions can greatly increase the risk of stroke. Among them are the following:

    Atrial fibrillation: With AFib, the risk of a stroke caused by a blood clot is 3 to 5 times what it would be otherwise. People with AFib may need medications to regulate their heartbeat and/or blood thinners to reduce the risk of a blood clot. Learn more about caring for someone with AFib.

    High blood pressure: This is the biggest controllable risk factor for a stroke. Lowering blood pressure can help reduce the risk of stroke.

    High cholesterol: About 28% of Canadians have high cholesterol, and it is a major risk factor for stroke. Lowering cholesterol can cut stroke risk.

    Diabetes: If you have diabetes, you are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke compared to someone who does not have diabetes. Controlling blood sugar can dramatically reduce the risk of stroke.

    Here's how you can help:

    • Ask your doctor if your loved one should be tested for these or other conditions that may increase the risk of stroke (the list above is not a complete list of all medical conditions that can increase the risk of stroke).
    • If they have one of these conditions or if they have another condition that increases the risk of stroke, ask your doctor for a treatment plan, including a plan to reduce stroke risk.
    • Help your loved one follow their treatment plan.
    • If the doctor prescribes medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist:
      • what each medication is for
      • what it is called
      • when it should be taken
      • how it should be taken (e.g., with or without food)
      • what its side effects are and what to do about them
      • whether to avoid certain foods or medications
      • whether any medical tests are needed
      • whether there is any other information that you need to know about the medication
  3. Ask your doctor for help if:

    • You are not sure whether your loved one is at risk of a stroke.
    • You are not sure what to do to reduce their risk of a stroke.
    • You have questions or concerns about their medications or treatment plan.

Talk to your doctor to find out your loved one's stroke risk and what you can do to help reduce it.

And don't forget to take some time for yourself! Being a caregiver can be rewarding but stressful. Ask for help or caregiver support when you need a break.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2024. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: