3 Ways to Reduce Your Stroke Risk - Virtua Cardiology, NJ

3 Ways to Reduce Your Stroke Risk

By Anthony Sauerwein, MD – Virtua Cardiology

Age and family history weigh heavily on our chances of suffering a stroke. While we can’t turn back time or choose our relatives, there are risk factors that you can control.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and smoking all greatly heighten your chances of having a stroke. Fortunately, working with your healthcare provider, you can rein in your risks.

Lifestyle changes

A healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk for stroke. That includes following these guidelines:

  • Don’t smoke or vape.
  • Make healthy food choices. Be sure to get the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose foods that are low in animal and trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
  • Lose weight.
  • Be physically active each day.
  • Limit alcohol use.


Take your medicines as instructed by your healthcare provider. The following medicines can help prevent stroke:

  • Antihypertensive medications to lower your blood pressure–you may need to take more than one
  • Blood thinners to help prevent clots from forming
  • Statins to lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Diabetes medicines to adjust your blood sugar levels

Medical procedures

Atrial fibrillation (A-Fib), a type of irregular heartbeat, makes you five times more likely to have a stroke. Medicines and cardioversion, an electrical shock delivered to your heart, may be used to restore your heart rhythm.

If these options fail, your doctor may recommend ablation, a minimally invasive procedure that destroys abnormal heart tissue causing the irregular heartbeats.

Your doctor also may suggest the Watchman, an innovative device that closes off an area of the heart where clots often form in people with A-Fib.

Other surgical procedures to help prevent a stroke include:

  • Carotid endarterectomy, surgery to remove plaque and clots from the carotid arteries, located in the neck
  • Carotid stenting to keep the artery feeding blood to the brain open
  • Surgery to repair aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations that put you at risk for an artery bursting and bleeding into the brain
  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO) closure to seal a hole in the heart that didn’t close properly after birth

Incorporating even modest lifestyle changes and addressing your health issues can help you stave off stroke. Work with your doctor to get started.

To make an appointment with a Virtua physician, call 888-847-8823.

For the latest news on stroke and brain health, sign up today for Virtua's monthly Good Vibes newsletter

Updated June 17, 2020

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