Learning how to prevent a second stroke is all about awareness and action.
Stroke prevention should be a cornerstone of every patient’s stroke rehabilitation process.
With this 7-step framework, you’ll reduce your risk of recurrent stroke and also create a healthy foundation for your recovery.
Let’s get started.
1. Reduce Your Stroke Risk Factors
The risk of recurrent stroke was 2.6 percent within the first 14 days after stroke and 6 percent within the next 90 days, according to a study published by Neurology.
The study also found that over 96% of patients who had a second stroke showed signs of one or more risk factor. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand your risk factors and actively reduce them.
Some of the biggest stroke risk factors are:
- History of mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- Age (risk of stroke doubles every decade past age 55)
- History of heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Cigarette smoking
- Atrial fibrillation or CADSIL
- High blood cholesterol
While you cannot control some of these risk factors, like age, you can control others, like smoking and high blood pressure.
We’ll dig into the manageable stroke risk factors throughout the rest of this article.
2. Monitor Your Blood Pressure to Avoid Damaging Your Brain’s Arteries
Having high blood pressure puts extra strain on the walls of your arteries, leading to damage. When it affects the arteries in your brain, it increases your risk of a second stroke – especially a hemorrhagic stroke caused by a burst artery.
High blood pressure, the leading cause of stroke, is worsened by a heavy intake of salt.
So if you tend to shake the salt too abundantly, try to cut back. Here’s a guide that can help you reduce your sodium intake and, as a result, reduce your risk of stroke.
3. Get Moving to Reduce Risk of Stroke by 20%!
Speaking of exercise, a study from Medscape Medical News shows that exercising enough to break a sweat a few times a week can reduce your risk of stroke by 20%! That’s a huge boost in brain protection, so find time in your day to get moving.
And if your mobility prevents you from moving fast enough to break a sweat, don’t stress about it. As long as you’re participating in rehabilitation every day, you’ll work your way up to that point.
4. Get Any Preventive Surgeries Recommended by Your Doctor
Your risk of stroke increases if you have any aneurysm in your brain. An aneurysm is a bulge in your artery that creates weakness in the vessel wall and increases risk of rupture (hemorrhagic stroke).
Two types of preventive surgeries are aneurysm clippings and aneurysm coilings. During an aneurysm clipping, a tiny metal clip is inserted over the aneurysm to isolate it from normal blood flow.
During an aneurysm coiling, a metal coil is inserted into the aneurysm to isolate it from normal blood flow.
These surgeries are serious, invasive treatments, but they can help prevent risk of hemorrhagic stroke. If you have aneurysm and high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about this potential life-saving procedure.
5. Try the Science-Backed “MIND Diet”
The MIND diet combines the two heart-healthy DASH and Mediterranean diets.
Since both the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and Mediterranean diet are both proven to help prevent stroke, the MIND diet deserve special attention.
If you want to eat in a way that helps prevent stroke and recover the side effects, then try following the MIND diet if your doctor approves.
Essentially, the diet encourages you to focus on eating 10 foods and avoid eating 5 specific foods.
10 Foods to Eat:
- Green, leafy vegetables– aim for 6+ servings a week
- All other vegetables– try to eat another non-starchy vegetable once a day
- Berries– twice a week
- Nuts– 5+ servings per week
- Olive oil– use it as a salad dressing or cooking oil
- Whole grainslike oatmeal, quinoa, and whole-wheat pasta – aim for 3 servings a day
- Fish– twice a week
- Beans– 4x a week
- Poultry– twice a week (sorry, fried chicken is not encouraged)
- Wine– no more than 1 glass a day
5 Foods to Avoid:
- Butter and margarine– less than 1 tablespoon daily
- Cheese– less than once per week
- Red meat– less than 3 servings per week
- Fried food– less than once per week
- Pastries and sweets– less than 4x a week
We know it can be a bummer to cut out these last 5 foods, but think of all the brain-boosting and stroke-preventative benefits!
6. Get Your Neuro-Protective Vitamins
Certain nutrients can help prevent a second stroke. We recommend getting all your nutrients from food, but sometimes supplements can help fill in the gap when we need some extra help.
Some of the top vitamins for stroke recovery are CoQ10, vitamin B3, and fish oil. Before you go buy any supplements, check with your doctor (it could interact with medication you’re taking) and see if you can get them from foods first.
You can find CoQ10 in beef, broccoli, and spinach while vitamin B3 can be found in tuna, chicken, and salmon. Fish oil can be found in, well, fish – especially fatty fish like salmon (which is MIND diet approved!).
7. Practice Self-Care Because Stress Can Cause a Second Stroke
Living with chronic, long-term stress increases your risk of stroke by 4x!
Yikes! Stress hormones increase blood pressure, and when those hormones are around long-term, it can eventually cause of stroke.
We know that stroke recovery can be a very stressful time due to health concerns and financial strain. Try your best to practice self-care so that the stress doesn’t take a toll on you.
If you find that your situation is too overwhelming, talk to your doctor about possible medication to help alleviate anxiety. While we encourage you to approach recovery naturally, medication is always a good option when it can help prevent a second stroke!
Now that you’re an expert on how to prevent a second stroke, it’s time to take action! Which steps will you start working on? Share your action plan with us in the comments below!