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Stroke prevention through a healthy lifestyle

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 (5 portions a day) as well as whole grains. You should also limit the amount of salt you eat. And you should avoid food containing saturated fats because these will increase your cholesterol levels.

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

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.

For most people, one hour of strenuous activity at least three times per 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.

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 3 times.

For more information about healthy diet recommendations for Australians, read more about balanced eating, healthy food swaps and see the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Visit the Stroke Foundation for more information on stroke prevention.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about stroke, check your symptoms with healthdirect's online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: September 2017

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