About 300,000 Canadians are living with the after-effects of a stroke, such as paralysis, vision problems, and difficulties with memory and thinking. But this doesn't have to be your story. Learn how you can reduce your stroke risk:

Get a treatment plan for your high blood pressure

High blood pressure is the single biggest stroke risk factor that you can try to manage.

Take action to reduce your risk! Talk to your doctor about a treatment plan to manage your blood pressure.

Your treatment plan may involve medications and healthy lifestyle changes. It's very important to follow the treatment plan your doctor recommends. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor.

Some people have other medical conditions that put them at risk of stroke. Talk to your doctor to learn more about your stroke risk and how to reduce your risk.

Live a healthy lifestyle

A few simple lifestyle changes can help lower your blood pressure and dramatically cut your stroke risk:

Healthy lifestyle change

What to aim for

How to make it happen*
Eat healthy (good nutrition) as directed by your doctor

Each day, try to eat:

  • 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables
  • 6-8 servings of grains (with at least half of these from whole grain products)
  • 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy products
  • 2-3 servings of lean meat or meat alternatives (such as tofu)

Don't eat too much sodium. Aim for:

  • age under 50: 1500 mg/day
  • age 50-70: 1300 mg/day
  • age over 70: 1200 mg/day
  • Buy whole-grain bread instead of white.
  • Add berries to your morning cereal, carrot sticks to lunch, or a salad to dinner.
  • Whenever you would usually drink pop or juice, drink water instead.
  • Use healthy snacks such as precut fruit and veggies and salad in a bag.
  • Cook up a large batch of healthy food on the weekend, then freeze it in meal-sized portions for the week.
  • Consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Exercise as directed by your doctor Ask your doctor how much activity and what types of exercise are safe for you.

Check with your doctor before starting to exercise.

If your doctor gives you approval to exercise, start slowly - even 10 minutes of activity is enough to get started. Then gradually work your way up to longer exercise times:

  • Today, after dinner, put on some comfortable shoes and walk around the neighborhood.
  • Park a bit further from work or shopping.
  • Do more gardening and physical household chores (such as vacuuming).
Reach a healthy weight as directed by your doctor

Aim for:


  • waist size of less than 80 cm (31.5 inches) for women or less than 94 cm (37 inches) for men
  • Try eating healthy and exercising (see above) to lose weight safely.
  • Consult your doctor before making any changes to your physical activity or diet.
Use alcohol in moderation as directed by your doctor
  • Limit yourself to no more than 2 drinks a day, to a maximum of 10 drinks per week for women, and no more than 3 drinks a day, to a maximum of 15 drinks per week for men.

    (If you have liver disease, check with your doctor to find out your maximum recommended alcohol consumption.)
  • Keep track of your drinking for a week to see if you're over the limit. One drink is:
    • 341 mL (12 ounces) beer
    • 142 mL (5 ounces) wine
    • 43 mL (1.5 ounces) spirits
  • Cut back if you are over the limit. If you are having trouble, talk to your doctor.
Quit smoking as directed by your doctor Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. If you are a non-smoker, do not start smoking.
  • When you're ready to quit, ask your friends and family to help, and speak to your doctor or pharmacist about options to help you quit.
Tame your stress as directed by your doctor Understand and control the sources of stress in your life.
  • Make a list of things that make you feel stressed.
  • Focus on the things that cause you the most stress, and think of ways to avoid or manage them. Try exercising if advised by a doctor (helps relieve stress), talking to a friend, taking breaks, using humour, delegating to someone else, or just saying "no."
  • Consult your doctor for assistance with stress management.
Have regular medical check-ups as directed by your doctor Have regular medical check-ups to make sure your blood pressure is under control and to screen for other conditions that can increase your risk of stroke, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or atrial fibrillation.
  • Ask your doctor for an appointment card. Or, better yet, carry an organizer with you to your doctor's appointment and put the appointment in your calendar as soon as it is made.
  • Ask your doctor how often you need to have medical check-ups.

*These lifestyle suggestions may not be appropriate for everyone. Check with your doctor to find out which lifestyle changes you should make to reduce your risk of stroke.
This is not a complete list of all medical conditions that can increase your risk of stroke; speak with your doctor for more information.

Use blood pressure medications as directed

What medications are available?

There is a wide variety of different medications to lower blood pressure, and the choice of medication will be based on your individual situation and whether you have any other medical conditions. Some types of blood pressure medications include:

  • alpha-blockers: These decrease nerve signals to blood vessels, causing the blood vessels to widen and allowing blood to flow more easily, which reduces blood pressure.
  • angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors:These block the formation of angiotensin II, a substance that causes blood vessels to narrow. Blocking angiotensin II makes the blood vessels widen, allowing blood to flow more easily, which reduces blood pressure.
  • angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs ): These block the effects of angiotensin II (see above) on blood vessels, which makes blood vessels widen. This allows blood to flow more easily and reduces blood pressure.
  • beta-blockers: These reduce nerve signals to blood vessels and the heart, causing a slower, less forceful heartbeat. This lowers blood pressure.
  • calcium channel blockers (CCBs): These block calcium from getting into heart and blood vessel muscle cells. This helps relax the blood vessels, making blood flow more easily. This reduces blood pressure.
  • centrally acting agents: These work in the nervous system to relax blood vessels, making blood flow more easily. This reduces blood pressure.
  • direct renin inhibitors:These block a substance called renin, which is used at the beginning of a series of chemical reactions that eventually produces the substance angiotensin II (see above). Blocking the process that produces angiotensin II helps blood vessels relax, allowing blood to flow more easily. This reduces blood pressure.
  • diuretics: These cause the kidneys to remove extra water and salt from the body, which reduces blood pressure.

How are they used?

Blood pressure medications are used in combination with lifestyle changesto lower your blood pressure to a healthy level.

The usual target is a blood pressure of less than 140/90 (or less than 130/80 for people with diabetes or kidney disease).

What are the risks of these medications?

These medications may cause side effects, such as:

  • alpha-blockers: dizziness when getting up from a lying or sitting position, fainting due to low blood pressure, headache, drowsiness, palpitations, or stuffy nose
  • ACE inhibitors: dry cough, higher-than-normal levels of potassium in the blood, swelling of the face or throat, kidney problems, or dizziness or lightheadedness from low blood pressure
  • ARBs: lightheadedness, dizziness, headache, muscle pain, weakness, higher-than-normal levels of potassium in the blood, or kidney problems
  • beta-blockers: fatigue, dizziness, slow heartbeat, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, decreased capacity for exercise, headache, reduction or loss of libido, depression, or heart failure
  • CCBs: ankle swelling, flushing, headache, palpitations (typically experienced as a rapid thumping in the chest), dizziness, slow heartbeat, constipation, or heart failure (where the heart has difficulty pumping enough blood to meet the needs of the body)
  • centrally acting agents: drowsiness, dry mouth, stuffy nose, depression, dizziness when getting up from a lying or sitting position, palpitations, sexual dysfunction, water retention, jaundice, or unexplained fever
  • direct renin inhibitors: diarrhea, headache, fatigue, higher-than-normal levels of potassium in the blood, or kidney failure
  • diuretics: low blood pressure, lower-than-normal levels of sodium and potassium in the blood, weakness, muscle cramps, sensitivity to light, fatigue, or decreases in blood cell counts (rare)

This is not a complete list of all possible side effects. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for full information on side effects of a particular medication.

How can I get the most from my medication?

  • Talk to your doctor to make sure you know how to use your medication. Ask your doctor if there are any special instructions for your medication such as avoiding certain medications or foods, and whether you need any routine monitoring or testing while you are on the medication.
  • Take your medication as recommended by your doctor. If you find that you miss doses of medication or scheduled medical tests, talk to your doctor or pharmacist for help.
  • Call your pharmacy for a refill before you run out of medication.
  • If you have questions or concerns about your medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist for help.
  • Use the Medication Check-Up tool to make sure you're getting the most out of your medication and see whether it's time to talk to your doctor about your medication.