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Don’t Wait for a Wakeup Call: 6 Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke

May 6, 2024 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
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As May unfolds, so does American Stroke Month, a crucial time to shed light on prevention strategies, and the warning signs of stroke.

When a clot or rupture blocks a blood vessel inside the head, the brain is robbed of the essential oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive. During a stroke, approximately 2 million brain cells die for every minute treatment is delayed.

Huntsville Hospital, the only Advanced Primary Stroke Center in Madison County with Thrombectomy Capable Treatment for Acute Stroke, offers expert stroke treatment from skilled physicians and specially trained staff in the Emergency Department, neurological patient care units and Neuro Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Although we’re here should you need treatment for a stroke, our 24/7 Stroke Team’s goal is to see fewer strokes by encouraging individuals to make necessary lifestyle changes to mitigate their risk. From maintaining a balanced diet to regular physical activity to managing stress, simple adjustments can significantly reduce the likelihood that you have a stroke.

Check out these six ways you can start lowering your chances of a stroke today:

Know your blood pressure

Did you know high blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke? Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure occurs when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high.

Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg, so get your blood pressure checked regularly and work with your health care professional to manage it if it’s high.

Rethink your eating habits

Stroke is one of the top causes of death and disability in the U.S. One of the ways you can avoid this outcome is by eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium (salt). Reducing sugary drinks will also go a long way in decreasing your stroke risk.

If you’re struggling with eating healthier, your doctor, nurse, a licensed nutritionist or registered dietitian can help you come up with a plan that’s mindful of your needs. Other tips for success:

  1. Eat smaller portions
  2. Skip frying and bake, broil, roast or boil foods instead
  3. Read nutrition labels
  4. Eat more veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and healthy oils
  5. Use a diary or mobile app to track your food intake
Get physical

Research shows regular physical activity reduces the incidence and mortality associated with stroke, so lace up your sneakers and start moving!

To begin, set goals and keep reaching for them. Gradually increase your activity to gain even more health benefits, such as weight loss or management.

The American Stroke Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination of both throughout the week. Examples of moderate-intensity activities include brisk walks or water aerobics, while vigorous-intensity could include running, hiking or cycling.

You should also strive for moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening activity, such as resistance bands or weights, on at least two days per week.

Don’t smoke or vape

If you smoke or vape, don’t put off quitting any longer. It can be tough to stop, but so worth it in the long run. A few ideas to help you quit and stick with it include:

  1. Talk to a health care provider about cessation programs and/or medication.
  2. Chat with a professional coach at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
  3. Identify your triggers and avoid them if possible.
  4. Stay busy or pick up a new hobby to deal with urges.
  5. Ask a friend or family member for support and to hold you accountable.
Reduce stress

Stress can have many harmful effects, including overeating, lack of physical activity, smoking, poor sleep and more. These stressors can wreak havoc on your body and brain health.

To get your stress under control, work on bringing calm and peace to your life. That can take many forms. For some, it’s eating healthier or finding a physical activity they enjoy. For others, it’s meditation, journaling, yoga or being more social.

Whatever your preference, make time to tame your stress so you can enjoy a long and healthy life!

Cut back on alcohol

When it comes to alcohol, keep these numbers in mind: one drink a day for women and two a day for men. Work on cutting back on alcohol to decrease your risk of stroke and other health issues.

Need help prioritizing moderation? Get help by talking to a health care professional.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any warning signs of stroke (click here to know the symptoms and B.E. – F.A.S.T.), seek medical help immediately by calling 9-1-1.

To learn more about our Stroke Program, visit