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Lifestyle risk factors


Small, healthy changes in your daily routine can decrease your risk for another stroke. Making changes is always challenging. Your healthcare team can help you figure out what risk factors you should focus on first and set goals that you can reach.

Don’t try to change yourself overnight. Start with something that is relatively easy and build on your successes.

Unhealthy diet

The foods you eat affect your health. Small healthy changes in your daily routine can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. Learn more about how to eat healthy

Not enough exercise

Being physically active is good for your heart and brain. People who are not active have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as increased risk of diabetes, cancer and dementia. 

Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. No matter what your state of health, there is something you can do to stay active. Learn more about getting active.

Unhealthy Weight

If you are struggling with your weight, you are not alone. Over 60% of Canadian adults are either overweight or obese. Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea. Obesity can double your chance of heart disease.

Learn how to assess your weight and how to reach a healthy weight.

Smoking (tobacco misuse)

Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke in middle-aged men and women.

Quitting is one of the best things you can do to prevent heart disease and stroke. You might be afraid that quitting will be too hard, but there is lots of help available to you when you are ready.  Learn more about quitting smoking

Too much alcohol

Heavy drinking and binge drinking are risk factors for high blood pressure and stroke. Alcohol may also cause problems by interacting with your medications. Learn more about your risk and the guidelines for moderate drinking.

Birth control and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Medications that contain estrogen – the female hormone – increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and mini-stroke (TIA). 

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (usually prescribed for the symptoms of menopause) and many birth control pills contain estrogen.  If you take birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, discuss the benefits and risk with your healthcare professional. Learn more about women’s unique risk factors

Recreational drug use

Drugs such as amphetamines, cannabis (marijuana), cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, opioids, LSD and PCP increase your risk of having a stroke and developing heart disease. When a stroke occurs, it often happens within hours of drug use.  Learn more about the risk of recreational drug use.

Stress

Stress is a part of life for just about everyone.  Sometimes it is not easy to recognize stress because we are caught up in the flow of life.   

Although stress happens first in the mind, it has strong effects on the body. People who have high levels of stress or prolonged stress have higher cholesterol or blood pressure. They may be more prone to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), a stroke risk factor.Learn more about how to manage stress.

If you have recently experienced a stroke, you might find information on emotions and feelings helpful.

Related information

Learn about other risk factors for stroke.

Learn how to live a healthier lifestyle.

Talking to your doctor.