There are things you can do to prevent stroke happening to you or someone you care about.  Certain risk factors increase your chances of having a stroke. Knowing what they are means you can take action to lower your risk.

Here are the key risks and some actions you can take to lower your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.*

High blood pressure

One in five New Zealanders has high blood pressure and many don’t even know, as often there are no symptoms. A person with high blood pressure is up to seven times more likely to have a stroke than someone with normal or low blood pressure.  It’s important that you have your blood pressure checked regularly and that you take steps to reduce it if it‘s high. Find out more about blood pressure.

High cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is found in your blood. Too much of it can cause the blood vessels in your body to harden and block, increasing your risk of stroke and heart attack. Ask your doctor to check your cholesterol so that you can take steps to reduce it if it’s high.

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a type of irregular heartbeat. If you have this condition you have a five times greater stroke risk due to a blood clot forming in the heart and travelling to the brain. Talk to your doctor about getting checked for this. Medication can regulate your heartbeat and reduce the chance of a clot forming.

Eat a healthy diet and reduce salt

Eating more fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean meat will help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels by reducing your intake of salt, fat and sugar

Stop smoking

Smoking quadruples your stroke risk. If you smoke and have high blood pressure you are up to 18 times more likely to have a stroke than someone your age that is a non-smoker with normal blood pressure. For support to stop smoking visit Quitline

Move more

Exercising regularly and being active will help you control many risk factors for stroke including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Tips on getting more active.

Keep your alcohol intake low

Drinking more than two small alcoholic drinks a day can increase your risk of stroke. To reduce your risk you should also aim for at least two alcohol-free days per week. Tips to reduce your alcohol intake.

Lose weight

Being overweight puts extra strain on your blood vessels and heart. It also increases your risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes – all of which increase your risk of having a stroke. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly will help you control your weight.

Take your medication

If you have been prescribed medication for your blood pressure, cholesterol or other risk factors, it’s important that you take it as directed by your doctor. Never stop taking medication without first talking to your doctor

Know your risk of stroke

It is important to know your personal risk of having a stroke. To learn more about the risk factors which may affect you, download the free Stroke Riskometer app and find out what your stroke risk is.

* Heart attack and stroke share many of the same risk factors because our hearts and brains are linked by a network called the cardiovascular system. Lowering your risk factors for stroke will automatically lower your risk of heart attack.