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Everyday Habits That Increase Stroke Risk, Says CDC

Dropping them will save your brain.

Strokes—the leading cause of disability in America—are debilitating, often lethal, and very avoidable. In fact, 80% of strokes are preventable, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Avoiding common unhealthy habits is an easy and effective way to start. These are the everyday habits that increase your risk of stroke, according to CDC. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


Eating an Unhealthy Diet

fast food and chips

"Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to stroke and related conditions, such as heart disease," says the CDC. Additionally, diets high in sodium can lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke.

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Being Sedentary

woman lying on sofa and watching tv.

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

To reduce your risk of stroke and other health problems, experts including the American Heart Association recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, each week (ideally spread throughout the week).

Examples of moderate intensity activity include brisk walking, leisurely biking, gardening and dancing. Examples of vigorous activity include running, swimming, cycling and rowing.

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Obesity—defined as a BMI (body mass index) of 30 and above—is a major risk factor for diabetes and high blood pressure, two conditions that raise stroke risk. Obesity is also linked to high cholesterol and high triglycerides (fats in the blood), which can harden arteries, making cardiovascular disease more likely.

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Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Men cheers with glasses of a whiskey soda alcohol cocktail drink

Consuming too much alcohol also elevates your level of blood triglycerides, potentially hardening arteries and contributing to heart attack or stroke. It can also raise your blood pressure, another stroke risk. To reduce your risk of stroke and other serious health problems, experts recommend drinking only in moderation—no more than one drink a day for women, and two drinks a day for men.

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Using Tobacco

Mature woman with sore throat, standing in living room at home.

Tobacco smoke contains thousands of toxins. Once inhaled, they can damage the heart and walls of arteries, 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," says the CDC, which notes that inhaling secondhand smoke also puts you at risk. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael