World Stroke Day: We Can Prevent Stroke
Stroke is a leading cause of severe disability and death. Each year, almost 800,000 Americans have a stroke, and more than 140,000 die.1 There are many reasons to get motivated to prevent stroke, including wanting to stay healthy for yourself and your family. To celebrate World Stroke Day on October 29, get the facts about stroke and learn three more reasons to get motivated to prevent stroke from happening to you or a loved one.
1. Most strokes are preventable.
Stroke doesn’t have to happen—up to 80% of strokes can be prevented.2
Most strokes are ischeic strokes. Ischemic strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is blocked, usually by a blood clot or plaque. You can lower your risk for stroke by making healthy lifestyle choices and by managing health conditions that lead to stroke, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
To prevent stroke, focus on improving these four areas:
- Stay physically active. Only about 1 in 5 adults get enough aerobic exercise and strength training.3 Physical activity strengthens your heart and blood vessels, keeping them elastic and healthy. Experts recommend getting 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as cycling or brisk walking, each week. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
- Choose healthy foods. Limit your intake of salt (sodium) and foods high in saturated fats. Salt increases blood pressure, and saturated fats have been linked to high cholesterol. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two leading risks for stroke. Try flavoring your meals with lemon, herbs, and spices rather than salt. Make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies each day; they have fiber, which may help lower cholesterol.
- Do not smoke. Not smoking is important for your health. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.4 Smoking can cause stroke as well as other conditions that can hurt your heart and brain, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Learn how to quit smoking.
- Take medicines if needed. About 1 in 4 adults, age 65 or older, with Medicare Part D prescription drug insurance do not take their blood pressure medicine as directed.5 Work with your health care team to manage high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Medicines can help reduce your risk of stroke when you take them as directed. If you have trouble remembering to take your medicines, talk to your health care team about tools that can help, such as a daily pillbox.
2. Stroke is a leading cause of disability.
About 1.4 million Americans are living with a disability because of stroke.6 Stroke damages the brain, so disability caused by stroke can include trouble thinking, speaking, walking, and moving. During a stroke, every minute matters. Getting to the hospital quickly can help prevent disability and death from stroke.
Know the signs and symptoms of stroke and act F.A.S.T. (see sidebar) if you or someone you know is having a stroke.
3. Your risk for stroke may be higher than others.
Stroke can happen at any time to any person, but your risk for stroke may be higher if you:
- Are a woman. Although they can happen to men and women, strokes are more common in women, in part because women live longer than men. In fact, 1 in 5 women age 55 and older will have a stroke in her lifetime. About 6 in 10 stroke deaths happen to women.7
- Are African American or Hispanic. African Americans are about twice as likely to have a stroke as whites. African Americans are also more likely to die from stroke than whites.8 Stroke rates are also higher among Hispanics than among whites, especially at younger ages.9
- Have a family history of stroke. Your genes play a role in your stroke risk. Your stroke risk is even higher if you also have unhealthy habits or conditions, such as smoking, obesity, or high blood pressure.
What CDC Is Doing to Prevent and Manage Stroke
CDC and its partners are leading national initiatives and programs to reduce death and disability caused by stroke and help people live longer, healthier lives.
- CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention provides resources and funds programs to address heart disease and stroke prevention.
- The Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program funds states to measure, track, and improve the quality of care for stroke patients, working to reduce death and disabilities from stroke.
- The Million Hearts® initiative, co-led by CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, works with other federal agencies and private-sector partners to raise awareness and provide tools and resources related to stroke prevention.
- CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. (2016). Multiple Cause of Death 1999-2015 on CDC WONDER Online Database. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999–2015, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program.
- CDC. (2017). Preventing Stroke: Healthy Living.
- CDC. (n.d.) Trends in Meeting the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines, 2008—2015. [141 KB]
- CDC. (2017). Smoking& Tobacco Use: Fast Facts.
- Ritchey M, Chang A, Powers C, et al. Vital Signs: Disparities in Antihypertensive Medication Nonadherence Among Medicare Part D Beneficiaries — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:967-976.
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2012). Americans with Disabilities: 2010. Table D-9: Conditions Reported as the Cause or Causes of Activity Limitations or Fair/Poor Health.
- Benjamin EJ, Blaha MJ, Chiuve SE, Cushman M, Das SR, Deo R, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2017 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135:e146-603.
- CDC. (2016). Family History and Other Characteristics That Increase Risk for Stroke.
- CDC. (n.d.) Hispanics and Stroke. [216 KB]
- Page last reviewed: October 24, 2017
- Page last updated: October 24, 2017
- Content source:
- National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs