Stroke Prevention Day took place on Friday 14 January 2022. The aim of Stroke Prevention Day is to help people with stroke risk factors and encourage them to reduce their risk by making one small change.
Many behaviours such as smoking, drinking alcohol or being physically inactive can increase your risk of stroke, along with having high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, or being an unhealthy weight. It’s important to be aware of your risk of stroke so you can act now to manage or reduce it.
What can I do to reduce my stroke risk?
There are lots of things you can do to reduce your risk of stroke.
This may be having a number of alcohol-free days each week, getting up and moving regularly during the day, changing your diet to include less salt or more fruit and veg, stopping smoking, or even joining an online exercise or activity group.
We recognise that making a change to your lifestyle isn't always easy, and will be different for everyone. Pick something that’s straightforward and manageable for you. If you’re able to stick with it for three months, you’re more likely to form a regular habit.
You could consider one of the actions below, or choose one of your own that may be more relevant and achievable for you. Find out more about the risk factors for stroke and how to reduce them.
Get help to stop smoking
Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. But we recognise that this can be hard to do. Pledge to make one small change to your smoking habits. This could be making and sticking to an appointment with a smoking cessation service, which can support you to reach your goal to quit smoking.
Think about your relationship with alcohol
Everyone has a different relationship with alcohol, but we know drinking too much can increase stroke risk. Pledge to make one small change to your drinking habits. This may be swapping an evening or weekend glass of wine or beer for water or a soft drink, or even doing something like dry January, but for a full three months.
Being more active and less sedentary can reduce your risk of stroke. Being active isn’t just about hitting the gym, but finding ways to get moving regularly. Pledge to make one small change to your activity levels. This may be doing a 10-minute walk every day or some chair-based exercise, getting up and moving every few hours to reduce sedentary periods, doing 20 minutes of housework, joining an online exercise session or even training for one of our virtual fundraising events. The important thing is to find something you enjoy and get moving.
Why not take on our Stride for Stroke challenge – and complete one step for each of the 1.3 million stroke survivors in the UK?
Address your high blood pressure or high cholesterol
High blood pressure or cholesterol can be very common, but we know they can both increase stroke risk. There are many things that can help to reduce high blood pressure and/or cholesterol. Pledge to make one small change to manage or reduce yours. This may be taking steps to get your blood pressure taken, being more active in the day, swapping fried foods like chips for steamed vegetables, or using herbs for flavouring instead of salt. If you don’t know your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, your GP or local pharmacist can help you find out.
Enjoy healthier food
A diet high in fat, salt or sugars can increase your risk of developing a health condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes or even becoming an unhealthy weight, all of which can increase your risk of stroke. It can be difficult to make healthier food choices, but there are many ways you could make one small change to your eating habits. This may be giving up your weekly takeaway and saving the money for something else, swapping unhealthy snacks for healthier ones like fruits, carrot sticks or nuts, or trying some healthy online recipes.
Managing medical conditions
Having a medical condition such as diabetes or atrial fibrillation (AF) can increase your risk of stroke. In fact, you're five times more likely to have a stroke if you have AF. It’s important to follow any treatment and healthy lifestyle advice you're given.
If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar levels (HbA1c) to your target range can help to manage or reduce your risk of stroke. Pledge to make one small change to manage your diabetes. This could be following a healthier diet, stopping smoking, or being more active.
If you are diagnosed with AF, your doctor will assess your risk of a stroke. If you are at high risk, they will talk to you about using anticoagulant medication. Your doctor will discuss the options with you and carry out checks to make sure the medication is working well for you. Pledge to make one small change to check your pulse regularly.
Hear from people who've already made a change to their diet or lifestyle, and how it has helped them reduce their risk of stroke:
Jay said: “I’ve survived two strokes, which took a real toll on my mental health. However, my recovery from both strokes has been good on the whole. My left leg still drags, particularly in colder weather.
Before my strokes, I was a boxer and the doctor told me that I would never box again, which was really hard.
Given my love for sport, I had to find something sport-related to make me feel better mentally as well as physically. I started to play bowls and loved it. I went on to play darts and joined Disability Darts Scotland and have enjoyed spending lockdown playing lots of darts.
I now do everything I can to reduce my risk of having another stroke. I manage my blood pressure. I eat healthily and stay active. I now avoid stressful situations that I believe contributed towards my stroke.”
Helen and Neil
Helen said: “Neil had a massive stroke aged 58 and we were told he had only a 50/50 chance of surviving.
Remarkably, not only did Neil survive but within days he was sat upright and even walked when he needed to. However, Neil was left permanently blind in his left eye and could only say a few words as his aphasia was severe.
Neil was always relatively healthy, but he decided to make positive lifestyle changes.
Although Neil’s cholesterol was very high and may have caused his stroke, doctors did say this was hereditary. Either way, Neil completely changed his diet – he cut out junk food and snacks, drank herbal teas and cut out desserts too.
Neil’s also now cut out beer. Our local pub has been so supportive and now stocks lots of non-alcoholic beers, which he loves.
Despite his ongoing setbacks with fatigue and partial blindness, he is a new Neil since his stroke.”