About Stroke

A stroke happens when blood to a part of your brain is cut off, and may cause disability and/or death. Read on to learn about what puts you at risk for stroke, and what you can do to lower your risk.

What is stroke?

Stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Without oxygen-rich blood, brain cells begin to die. If the blood supply is not restored, the affected part of the brain dies, causing disability and/or death.

Stroke risk factors

Some risks for stroke cannot be controlled. These include:
  • Age
    • Over 65 years old
  • Gender
    • Male
    • Post-menopausal woman
  • Ethnicity
    • First Nations
    • African
    • South Asian
  • Family history of  heart disease or stroke before age 65
  • Prior stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack)
These stroke risk factors you can do something about:
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease – atrial fibrillation
  • Being overweight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Stress

High blood pressure

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure (BP) occurs when the force of blood pushing against artery walls as blood is pumped out of the heart, is too high. High BP is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease, so it is very important that it is properly controlled.
When BP consistently measures more than 140/90 mm Hg it is considered high. A normal BP reading is below 120/80 mm Hg. For individuals with diabetes, a BP that consistently measures 130/80 mm Hg is considered high.


Control your BP

  • Have your BP taken by a healthcare professional at least once every 2 years. If you have high BP, your doctor may monitor you more often
  • Quit smoking
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Get active and stay physically active. Physical activity helps reduce high BP
  • Stress can cause BP to rise, so relax
  • Limit your alcohol to 2 drinks a day for women and 3 drinks a day for men
  • Ask your doctor for information on home BP monitoring
  • If your doctor has prescribed high BP medication, take it exactly as directed
  • Reduce the amount of salt in your diet


High cholesterol

A fat found in the blood, cholesterol is a vital building block that the body uses.
There are three main types of blood fat. These are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides.
LDL cholesterol causes fatty plaque to build up on artery walls, while HDL helps clear the arteries. High triglyceride levels may mean that additional heart disease risk factors are present.
High cholesterol can narrow arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.


Control your cholesterol

  • Ask your doctor about cholesterol testing if you:
    • Are male and over 40
    • Are female and over 50 or post-menopausal
    • Have other stroke risk factors
  • Reduce your fat intake to 20-35% of your daily calories
    • 45-75 grams of fat a day for women
    • 60-105 grams of fat a day for men
  • Limit saturated fat
  • Avoid trans fats
  • Eat more whole grains, cereals, fruit and veggies
  • For snacks, try low-salt pretzels, plain popcorn or fruit
  • Use low-fat cooking methods such as baking, broiling or steaming
  • Avoid fried food
  • Get physically active
  • Ask your doctor about cholesterol-lowering medication



Why quit?
Smoking increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. It also:
  • Contributes to the buildup of plaque in your arteries
  • Increases the risk of blood clots
  • Reduces oxygen in the blood
  • Causes the heart to work harder
Lower your risk:
  • Quit smoking
  • Ask for help from family, friends and your doctor
  • Set a “Quit Date” and write it down
  • Drink plenty of water to manage withdrawal more effectively
  • Substitute sugarless gum, carrot sticks or low-calorie snacks to control the urge to smoke
  • Keep your hands busy with keys, coins or worry beads
  • Make your home and car smoke-free



The body needs insulin to break down sugar for energy. Diabetes develops when the body does not make enough insulin or effectively use the insulin it makes. It increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Lower your risk
  • If you are 40 or older, or have other stroke risk factors, ask your doctor to test your blood glucose (BG)
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Learn about healthy eating. You should follow Canada’s Food Guide
  • Know your BG target levels
  • Learn how to monitor your blood sugar
  • Get physically active
  • Contact the CDA for more information


Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

What is it?
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a “mini-stroke”. A TIA is a warning that you are at risk of having a full stroke. Up to 15% of people who have a stroke have had a TIA.
Lower your risk
  • Know the warning signs of stroke and TIAs. If they occur, seek immediate medical attention
  • Effectively manage blood pressure, blood cholesterol and/or diabetes
  • If your doctor prescribes medication to reduce the risk of TIA, be sure to take exactly as directed.
  • Be smoke-free, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce alcohol consumption, exercise and manage stress


Important information

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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. If you have questions about your symptoms, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart for more information, and/or contact your doctor.
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