Health Officials Release New Stroke Prevention Guidelines

New stroke prevention guidelines stress keeping blood pressure down, eating healthy foods and exercising

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have updated their guidelines for stroke prevention. The new guidelines focus on healthy eating, normal blood pressure and exercise as ways to lower stroke risk.

In an effort to keep the guidelines current, the authors looked at stroke research published since the last guidelines were put in place in 2011.

The authors of the new guidelines found that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts, losing weight if necessary and keeping blood pressure at healthy levels may lower stroke risk.

James F. Meschia, MD, a professor at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, wrote the new guidelines with colleagues.

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain stops due to a clot or a break in an artery carrying blood to the brain. A buildup of fat in the blood vessels can cause a clot or break. This fat buildup may be due to unhealthy lifestyle choices like poor eating habits and lack of exercise.

Many people have trouble walking or caring for themselves after having a stroke due to disabilities that result from the stroke, such as having partially paralyzed limbs. Even more people have difficulty with memory, reasoning or other mental functions after having a stroke, the guidelines authors noted.

The authors wrote that many factors can raise stroke risk. Some factors that raise the risk — such as a person’s age or race or an abnormal heart beat — cannot be changed. Many other factors like obesity or smoking, however, can change and lower stroke risk, the authors wrote.

"We have a huge opportunity to improve how we prevent new strokes, because risk factors that can be changed or controlled — especially high blood pressure — account for 90 percent of strokes," Dr. Meschia said in a press release.

The guidelines authors urged patients to exercise, stop smoking, avoid secondhand smoke and, if they're overweight or obese, lose weight. They also recommended diets like the Mediterranean diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Both diets are high in fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Those diets are also low in sodium, which is found in table salt but can also be found in other foods like canned vegetables and frozen meals. Sodium can cause the body to retain water, which puts added stress on the heart. The added pressure can push blood pressure higher. Having high blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for stroke, the authors noted.

The authors of the guidelines said people need to make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their stroke risk.

The guidelines were published Oct. 29 in Stroke.

The authors disclosed no outside funding sources. Some of the study authors received research grants or acted as consultants for medical companies like Janssen and Novo Nordisk.


Review Date: 
October 30, 2014
Last Updated:
March 12, 2015