Stroke: Knowing your Risk, and How to Prevent It


stroke pi

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of morbidity in North America. Strokes are caused by lack of blood flow, and therefore oxygen flow, to the brain causing brain cells to die. Though certain things are out of your control, lifestyle is a very important factor in whether or not you get a stroke.

Knowing the signs of a stroke is important in case you witness someone who exhibits symptoms.
These include:
• Numbness or frozen feeling in face or other parts of the body, often one-sided
• Sudden difficulty with speaking or understanding language, slurred speech
• Loss of balance, dizziness, confusion
• Trouble with sight

Knowing the risk factors for stroke can help you manage your own risk. These risk factors include:

• Previous history of heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Diabetes
• High cholesterol
• If you are a smoker

Having one or more of these can put you at greater risk for stroke. For a simple assessment on stroke risk, visit

So now that you know your stroke risk, what can you do about it?

Increase your physical activity

Getting enough exercise can be challenging. Start with weekly goals and stick with them. Try going for a walk after dinner, or go to your community centre to see what they offer. Share your exercise goals with your family and friends, and make social gatherings active. For low impact exercises, visit here (blog to low impact sports).

Diet, diet diet!

A healthy diet can reduce your risk of a stroke. Try to focus your diet on the following:

• Foods rich in folate, such as beans
• Foods rich in omega 3 Fatty acids, including fish (especially salmon), nuts
• Soy which has been shown to reduce cholesterol. Try tofu, edamame beans, or soya milk.
• Foods rich in antioxidants, including berries (the more vibrant the colour, the better), and other fruits and vegetables.
• Coffee – some research a cup a day can ward off stroke
• More on stroke and heart healthy diets can be found here (link to previous heart blog)

Cut the Smoking

Smoking raises your risk for stroke substantially, although quitting is easier said than done. There are a number of methods which people use to quit, including ‘weaning’ themselves off, decreasing the number of cigarettes they smoke gradually. Whatever your method, sharing your goals with others can be helpful and offer a sense of support.

Although we can’t control for all factors, we can control our lifestyle. Knowing your risk for stroke and making smarter choices can reduce your risk.