As part of the overall mission of Creating Healthier Communities Together, the UM Shore Regional Health stroke services team offers educational programs for community organizations and groups to raise awareness about stroke prevention, stroke symptoms and the importance of receiving immediate medical attention.

It’s important to know the stroke risk factors you can change and those you cannot:

Risk Factors You Cannot Change

  • Your age. Risk of stroke increases with age.
  • Your gender. Men have a higher risk of getting heart disease than women except in older adults.
  • Your genes or race. If your parents had a stroke, you are at higher risk. African-Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Hawaiians, and some Asian Americans also have a higher risk for heart problems.
  • Diseases such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, and some types of arthritis
  • Weak areas in an artery wall abnormal arteries and veins or
  • Pregnancy -- both during and in the weeks right after the pregnancy

Risk Factors You Can Change

  • You can change some risk factors for stroke, by taking the following steps:
  • Do not smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
  • Control your cholesterol through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed.
  • Control high blood pressure through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed.
  • Control diabetes through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by eating healthy foods, eating less, and joining a weight loss program, if needed.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. This means 1 drink a day for women and 2 a day for men.
  • Avoid cocaine and other illegal drugs.
  • Talk to your doctor about the risk of birth control pills. Birth control pills can increase the chance of blood clots, which can lead to stroke. Clots are more likely in women who also smoke and who are older than 35.

Good nutrition is important to your heart health and will help control some of your stroke risk factors:

  • Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Choose lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, beans and legumes.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products, such as 1% milk and other low-fat items.
  • Avoid sodium (salt) and fats found in fried foods, processed foods, and baked goods.
  • Eat fewer animal products and foods that contain cheese, cream, or eggs.