How to reduce your risk of stroke

EVERY YEAR THERE ARE 152,000 strokes in the UK – that’s one every five minutes. A new study by the Stroke Association also warns that it should no longer be seen as a disease of older people, with a rise in the number of cases among 40 to 54-year-olds.

But research suggests around half could be prevented by lifestyle changes, monitoring of blood pressure, and increasing awareness of the warning signs. 


How to lower your risk

While your genes and age affect your risk, people who exercise, eat a healthy diet, have only a moderate alcohol intake and who don’t smoke are at lower risk. The Stroke Association urges people to have their blood pressure checked regularly, as high blood pressure (for which there may not be any symptoms) is the biggest risk factor for stroke.

Follow our dietitian Juliette Kellow’s diet tips for reducing your risk:


Focus on a balanced diet of plenty of fruit, veg, fibre-rich foods (such as wholegrains), low-fat dairy and protein, such as fish, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds.


Aim to reach or maintain a healthy weight for your height – that’s a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. Calculate yours here.


Eat at least five portions of fruit and veg a day to reduce the risk of stroke by 30%. They help protect arteries from damage, control blood pressure and lower blood cholesterol.


Swap white processed carbs for wholegrains, such as brown rice and wholewheat pasta. Studies show eating plenty of wholegrains cuts the risk of stroke by 30–36%.


Cut right down on salt Too much increases the chances of high blood pressure. Health experts recommend no more than 6g salt a day.


Have at least one portion of oil-rich fish a week, such as salmon. It has omega-3 fats, which help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.


Control blood cholesterol by cutting down on saturates and trans fats, found in fatty and fried foods. For cooking, use small amounts of monounsaturated-rich olive or rapeseed oil. 


STROKE SYMPTOMS

A full stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off and brain cells are damaged or killed. Symptoms include visual or speech disturbances, noticeable drooping on one side of the face, or a numbness or weakness in the arms or legs. These symptoms may last only a few minutes, but it’s essential to get them checked out without delay.

A transient ischaemic attack (TIA or mini stroke) occurs when there is a temporary disruption to the blood supply to the brain, which can cause stroke-like symptoms. Always seek medical help if this happens.

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