Stroke Prevention – What You Need to Know

doctor holding a heart and a magnifying glass

Eating well and following healthy lifestyle habits can lower your chances of developing many diseases, including stroke. Let’s take a closer look at stroke.

What is stroke?

In a stroke, there is not enough blood flowing to the brain

Most strokes are caused when a blood clot forms inside a blood vessel to the brain. The blood clot blocks the normal flow of blood to the brain. This type of stroke is called an ischemic stroke.

A stroke can also happen when a blood vessel in the brain breaks. This causes bleeding in the brain and also blocks the normal flow of blood to the brain. This type of stroke is called a hemorrhagic stroke. 

Risk factors for stroke

These are some important risk factors for stroke:

Age and sex: As you get older, your risk increases. The risk for stroke is higher for men who are over the age of 55, and for women after menopause. Most strokes happen in people over age 65.

Family history: Your risk of stroke is higher if a close family member (parent, sibling or child) had a stroke before age 65.

Ethnicity: First Nations people and people of African or South Asian background are at higher risk for having high blood pressure and diabetes. These conditions put them at a higher risk for stroke too.

Previous stroke or mini-stroke: If you have already had a stroke or a mini-stroke, there is a 20% chance that you will have another stroke within two years.

Lifestyle habits: Your chances of developing stroke also rise if you:

  • smoke;
  • have high blood pressure;
  • have hardening of the arteries;
  • have diabetes; or
  • have a family history of heart problems.

What you can do to lower your risk of stroke

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death, but you can take important steps to prevent a stroke. The same habits that you follow for a healthy heart will also help to lower your chances of developing stroke. Here’s what you can do:

Quit smoking

For tips on how to quit, visit:

Health Canada’s On the Road to Quitting Program

Quit Smoking Guides – One Step at a Time by Canadian Cancer Society

Smoking, Heart Disease and Stroke by Heart and Stroke Foundation

Exercise regularly

Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living recommends being active for 30 to 60 minutes a day. Start slowly and build up. Brisk walking, jogging or cycling are all great activities to try.  If the cold wintry weather is holding you back, stay active with our fun ideas from This Winter, Don’t Hibernate, Participate! You can be active at home, work, school, in your community and everywhere – here’s how! Remember to talk to your doctor first before you start any new exercise routine.

Eat a healthy diet

Choose foods that are low in fat (especially saturated fat) and lower in sodium. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day. Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating tells you how much food to eat for your age and sex. 

Maintain a healthy weight

It’s not easy to lose weight and keep it off. Read our article Weight Control Strategies that Work

Limit your alcohol consumption

Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure which then increases your chances of stroke. Men should have no more than 14 drinks per week. Women should have less than 9 drinks per week. How can you cut back on alcohol? See our article Alcohol and Nutrition to find out.

Keep in touch with your doctor

Have regular check-ups with your doctor if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, a family history of stroke or heart disease, or any other type of heart problem. Each of these conditions raises your chances of stroke.


Too much stress can actually put you at a higher risk for stroke. Here are tips to help you Reduce Your Stress.

5 warning signs of stroke

Different parts of the brain control different functions in the body such as speech, vision and balance. The signs and symptoms of stroke happen so quickly because a part of the brain suddenly doesn`t get enough blood and stops working. Know these 5 warning signs of stroke. Call 911 right away if you notice any of these warning signs.  

A stroke can happen at any time. You could be having a stroke if you suddenly experience any of these signs and symptoms:

Weakness - sudden weakness, numbness or tingling in your face, arm or leg;

Trouble speaking - sudden temporary loss of speech or trouble understanding what people are saying;

Vision problems - sudden loss of vision or trouble seeing out of one or both eyes;

Headache - sudden severe headache for no reason; and

Dizziness - sudden loss of balance, trouble walking, dizziness, or a sudden fall, especially with any of the warning signs above.

If you notice ANY of the warning signs, call 911 right away.

The earlier you get medical help, the better your chances of getting treatment to reduce the effects of a stroke.

Last Update – January 29, 2019

Phone Icon

Dietitians look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice. Want to unlock the potential of food? Connect with a dietitian.