Harvard Heart Letter

11 ways to prevent stroke

It's never too late to strike out against a potentially devastating brain attack.

Like close cousins, heart disease and stroke share a common lineage. Both emerge from a mix of nature (genes), nurture (upbringing and environment), and personal choice (smoking, exercise, etc). For most of us, personal choice largely determines whether a stroke lies ahead. Guidelines on the prevention of stroke suggest that a healthy lifestyle can cut the risk of having one by 80%. No drug, device, or other intervention can come close to doing that.

The term "stroke" conjures up a frightening bolt out of the blue. It certainly feels that way when it happens. But the sudden onset belies a stroke's decades-long development due to slow but steady damage to blood vessels, the growth of artery-clogging plaque, or the development of atrial fibrillation. This long gestation means it is often possible to avoid a stroke by fighting arterial corrosion.

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