Behaviors That Increase Risk for Stroke

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Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, sodium, and cholesterol have been linked to stroke. Find healthy recipes and meal plans at the Million Hearts® Heart-Healthy Recipes page.external icon

Your lifestyle choices can affect your chances of having a stroke. To lower your risk, your doctor may suggest changes to your lifestyle.

The good news is that healthy behaviors can lower your risk for stroke.

Unhealthy Diet

Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to stroke and related conditions, such as heart disease. Also, getting too much salt (sodium) in the diet can raise blood pressure levels.

Physical Inactivity

Not getting enough physical activity can lead to other health conditions that can raise the risk for stroke. These health conditions include obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Regular physical activity can lower your chances for stroke.


Obesity is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to lower “good” cholesterol levels. Obesity can also lead to high blood pressure and diabetes.

Too Much Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure levels and the risk for stroke. It also increases levels of triglycerides, a form of fat in your blood that can harden your arteries.

  • Women should have no more than one drink a day.
  • Men should have no more than two drinks a day.
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A smoker for years, Suzy talks about her paralysis and problems speaking and seeing after smoking caused her to have a stroke.

Learn more about the health consequences caused by smoking.

Tobacco Use

Tobacco use increases the risk for stroke. Cigarette smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk for stroke. The nicotine in cigarettes raises blood pressure, and the carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry. Even if you don’t smoke, breathing in other people’s secondhand smoke can make you more likely to have a stroke.

Learn what steps you can take to prevent stroke.