Want to lower your risk of a first-time stroke? New guidelines from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association reinforce the idea that a healthy lifestyle is crucial.

The new guidelines advise people to exercise, control blood pressure and eat what's known as Mediterranean or DASH-style (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diets that emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains and seeds, plus poultry and fish.

"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," said Dr. James Meschia, lead author of the guidelines and professor and chairman of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., in an American Heart Association news release.

The guidelines recommend that people:

  • Eat a Mediterranean or DASH-style diet with nuts added. These diets emphasize eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and limiting saturated fats, such as red meat, cheese and butter.
  • Monitor blood pressure at home with a portable cuff device and avoid developing high blood pressure by exercising, eating properly and avoiding excess weight. Get your blood pressure checked by your health care provider every year. If you take blood pressure medications and they aren't working, ask your provider to adjust them.
  • Limit the levels of sodium in the diet.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking and taking oral birth control pills raises stroke risk, as does smoking if you get migraines with aura. Avoid secondhand smoke.

"Talking about stroke prevention is worthwhile," Meschia said. "In many instances, stroke isn't fatal, but it leads to years of physical, emotional and mental impairment that could be avoided."

The guidelines appear online Oct. 29 in the journal Stroke.

More information

For more about stroke prevention, try the National Stroke Association.

Eat lots of fruits and veggies, get exercise, limit salt...

Eat lots of fruits and veggies, get exercise, limit salt and don't smoke, experts say Credit: HealthDay

Latest videos