If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:8:54

Video transcript

if you've never had a stroke you probably don't want to have a first one if you've had a stroke chances are pretty good that you don't want to have another one so what can you do to help prevent strokes how can you lower your risk after all the vast majority that that happened of strokes that happen are preventable so let's actually think about this in terms of categories so there's ways to help prevent stroke by making some lifestyle changes there's ways to prevent stroke involving taking certain medications and there are ways involving surgery so we'll look at how each of these categories can help you to reduce your risk of stroke and I won't be covering every possible thing you could do I'll just cover some of the more important ones for each of our categories here so with lifestyle we've just got to start with blood pressure control so lower blood pressure because high blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for stroke because what it does is it is it causes damage to your blood vessel walls which can eventually lead to a stroke and in terms of lifestyle there's a few ways to reduce your blood pressure for example daily exercise which will strengthen your cardiovascular system and lower your blood pressure that way and there's reducing your salt intake because lots of salt in your diet can cause you to retain more water in your blood vessels and by default that would increase your blood pressure and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink because high alcohol intake is known to increase blood pressure so if you have a glass of wine with dinner that's not really a problem it's when you start having more than two standard drinks a day that your stroke risk goes up pretty sharply and next in our lifestyle column here we have smoking and really not smoking is crucial in fact smoking and blood pressure control are probably the two most important risk factors for stroke because for one smoking damages your blood vessels and for two smoking increases your blood pressure so smoking no good keeping a healthy body weight is important so that means that you're being physically active whether going for a walk everyday or taking the dog to the beach or maybe playing with the grandkids any physical activity that's safe for you to undertake and diet as well so eating healthily lots of fruit and vegetables no trans fat not too much saturated fat and so on studies have actually shown time and time again that maintaining a healthy body weight and having a healthy waist circumference is really important in preventing diseases of the arteries and that includes strokes and heart attacks so a healthy diet and exercise are really helpful in keeping your cholesterol levels in your blood pressure under control and then last year we'll put managing any current medical conditions because some of them can independently increase your risk of stroke so for example if you have diabetes then it's super important to keep those blood sugar levels under control whether that's through diet and exercise or those plus medications because poorly controlled diabetes can cause some imbalances to happen with the lipids in your blood and can damage your arteries which increases your risk of stroke so let's hop over to our medications category now so there's really four broad categories of medication that we'll talk about that you might be taking to prevent or rather lower your risk of having a stroke so we've got blood pressure lowering meds of course we'd start with that one and you know the plan would be to have your blood pressure controlled by lifestyle measures alone because who likes taking extra pills right but if that's not possible then your doctor might prescribe a medication to help lower your blood pressure that way and that'll reduce your risk of both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes and a group of antihypertensives you might have heard of are the ACE inhibitors which work by relaxing your blood vessels and reducing your blood volume and that in turn lowers your blood pressure next we've got antiplatelet medications like aspirin and these anti platelets they sort of prevent blood clots from forming inappropriately within your bloodstream because drugs like aspirin stop platelets in your blood from sticking together and forming these little precursors to full-blown blood clots so the fewer the precursors platelet plugs azar called these little precursor clots the fewer the blood clots that are able to be created and of course the fewer the blood clots you have in your bloodstream the less likely you are to have one gets stuck up in the arteries of your brain right now anticoagulants are a similar story to anti platelets and you've probably heard of the most commonly used anticoagulant called warfarin and how these work is they sort of interfere with and reduce production of certain proteins that are required to form blood clots so the result is that any existing clots just can't really grow any bigger because the proteins aren't there that allow that to happen and also new clots generally won't form very easily so the last major group of medications you might take to reduce your risk of stroke that we'll talk about is the group of lipid lowering drugs so you've probably heard of these as drugs to lower your blood cholesterol and there's a few different types at each work in a bit of a different way so for example one type the statins they work by preventing your liver from making cholesterol and you might have heard of a drug called lipitor that's actually the most commonly prescribed statin another type of lipid lowering drug is called ezetimibe and that one works by hanging out in your gut in your small intestine and then kind of grabbing on to cholesterol that you eat not letting you absorb it so these lipid lowering drugs are good for helping you maintain a nice healthy lipid profile within your blood stream and that lowers your risk of stroke and I'll just add on to this that sometimes you need medication to manage any ongoing medical conditions that could cause a stroke so for example if you had atrial fibrillation which is a condition known to cause clots to form in the atria that sometimes then travel up to the brain and cause strokes it would be really important that you took the necessary medications to manage the atrial fibrillation right so that your risk of clot formation in the atria and thus your risk of stroke would be lowered right so here you'd usually have a combination of drugs to control your heart rhythm or your heart rate plus an anticoagulant such as warfarin to make sure that clots don't pop up unexpectedly so really the bottom line is that you need to treat ongoing medical conditions that could cause a stroke now for our last major category and that's stroke risk reduction by surgery by surgical means so clots can come from collections of cholesterol from atherosclerosis so you get buildup of cholesterol and necrotic debris in your arteries here as part of carotid atherosclerosis and then bits can break off and just travel the short distance up into your brain and get stuck and cause a stroke or the build-up can just totally block off your carotid artery itself and that would cause a stroke too because see it's preventing blood from from heading up into your brain so to prevent this from causing a stroke either a first stroke or a subsequent stroke a surgeon can access this buildup and get rid of it so there'd be a little incision made here a little cut in the carotid artery here that has all the a thorough sclerotic buildup and this whole sort of thick necrotic gunk would be removed and and that'll reduce the risk of further strokes happening in a pretty big way so this procedure is called a carotid endarterectomy and there's another procedure I'll talk about that helps to lower your stroke risk and again it has to do with these carotid plaques you can just see that that these carotid plaques are pretty big risk factor for stroke so if you have a significant plaque buildup in your carotid a surgeon might insert a stent this little mesh expandable tube within the artery within the carotid to push open the walls and allow more blood flow through it up to the brain so it kind of squishes this atherosclerosis ides of the artery here and allows you to get better blood flow going through your carotid ZUP to your brain and that lowers your risk for at least ischemic strokes so there there's a few ways to try to prevent strokes from happening by some lifestyle changes like blood pressure reduction and quitting smoking and keeping a healthy weight some medications like anticoagulants and anti platelets and a few surgeries