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Published on June 09, 2020

Take Steps to Prevent a Second Stroke or Heart Attack

Image representing stroke

Studies show one out of every four stroke and heart attack survivors will have another. The good news is 80% of strokes and heart attacks are preventable with a combination of medication, like aspirin and better habits, according to the American Stroke Association.

At Wayne UNC Health Care, we urge patients to take charge of their health to prevent another stroke or heart attack.

“If you have already experienced a clot-related stroke or heart attack, it’s critical to continue seeing your doctor to develop a prevention plan,” said “In the meantime, there are several health-related changes you can start making today.”

Managing Blood Pressure

One way you can help prevent another stroke is by managing your blood pressure. You have high blood pressure when the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels is consistently too high.

You can reduce your risk for high blood pressure by:

  • becoming more physically active
  • eating a healthy diet
  • maintaining a normal body weight
  • avoiding alcohol
  • quitting smoking and tobacco
  • reducing stress

Controlling Cholesterol

“Cholesterol isn’t good or bad, in and of itself,” said Stroke Coordinator, Sara Ginn, MSN, RN, SCRN. “It is a waxy substance your body actually uses to build cells.” But, too much Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) can cause problems.

Cholesterol can join with other substances to form a thick, hard deposit on the inside of the arteries, making them narrow and less flexible. If a blood clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, you can experience a heart attack or stroke.

When it comes to managing your cholesterol, the American Stroke Association recommends remembering check, change and control.

  • Check your cholesterol levels.
  • Change your diet and lifestyle to help improve your levels.
  • Control your cholesterol, with help from your doctor, if needed.

Watch Your Blood Glucose

Another way to manage your risk is by maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Blood sugar goals for many adults with diabetes are as follows: A blood glucose before meals 80-130mg/dl, a blood sugar 1-2 hours after the start of a meal <180 and a goal Hemoglobin AIC of < 7.  The AIC test measures your average blood sugar over the last 2 to 3 months.

“When your digestive system breaks down food, your blood sugar level rises,” said Diabetes Educator, Angie Hill, MSN, RN. “Your body’s cells use the sugar in your bloodstream for energy.”

Lifestyle changes like losing weight, eating healthy and engaging in regular, moderate physical activity can help reduce progression of Type 2, while also minimizing other risk factors.

Move More

A good starting goal for improving your cardiovascular health and blood sugar readings is to move at least 150 minutes per week. Chances are, if you find an activity you enjoy, you’re more likely to stay with it, said {Diabetes Educator, Angie Hill, MSN, RN}. Gradually, you can continue to build more activity into your routine. 

Improve your Nutrition

An easy first step to improving your nutrition is adding color to your plates. “Try to add fruits and vegetables to every meal and snack,” said Stroke Coordinator, Sara Ginn, MSN, RN, SCRN. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s fresh, frozen, canned or dried. The idea is to have a mix of colors – and nutrients.”

The American Heart Association recommends four to five servings per day each of fruits and vegetables.

Drop a Few Pounds

If you are moving more and changing your eating habits, you’re already likely experiencing benefits like improved energy and better-fitting clothes. Losing weight can not only improve your health. It can also improve your quality of life.

Quit Vaping/Smoking/Tobacco

Most of us know that smoking can lead to lung cancer, but it’s important to know that smoking and tobacco use are also linked to heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases.

“There are more than 5,000 chemical components in cigarette smoke,” said Stroke Coordinator, Sara Ginn, MSN, RN, SCRN.  “Hundreds of them are harmful to you.” Smoking also transfers carbon monoxide to your bloodstream, reducing the amount of oxygen that is carried in the red blood cells.

Carbon Monoxide can increase the amount of cholesterol deposited into the inner lining of the arteries, and nicotine can contribute to the hardening of the arterial walls, potentially leading to a heart attack.

Talk to Your Doctor

One of the most important things you can do to prevent another heart attack or stroke, is work with your provider to develop a personalized stroke prevention plan. Make an appointment with a provider today to learn more about managing your risk for stroke and heart attack.

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