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Heart Experts Update Stroke Prevention Guidelines

Update Date: Oct 29, 2014 06:51 PM EDT

Healthy eating, regular exercise and maintaining blood pressure are all lifestyle habits that can significantly reduce a person's risk of suffering a first-time stroke.

The American Heart Association recently updated their guidelines to help lower the risk of stroke.

One of the updated guidelines recommend that people start eating more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts to lower their stroke risk. Another stroke-lowering tip advises people to keep a cuff device to monitor their blood pressure rates.

"We have a huge opportunity to improve how we prevent new strokes, because risk factors that can be changed or controlled - especially high blood pressure - account for 90 percent of strokes," lead author Dr. James Meschia, M.D., a professor and chairman of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, said in a news release.

Experts recommend that people with pre-hypertension need to make lifestyle changes to stall the development of hypertension. People should be more active, eat healthier, reduce their sodium intake, go for annual checkups, quit smoking and talk to their doctor about any adverse effects they experience when taking blood pressure medications.

Researchers emphasize that eating Mediterranean or DASH-style diets can significantly lower the risk of stroke. Both diets are similar in their fruit, vegetable, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, poultry and fish content. Both diets also limit red meat and foods containing saturated fats in animal-based products.

People can also lower their risk of stroke and heart attacks by avoiding secondhand smoke, researchers noted.

"Talking about stroke prevention is worthwhile," Meschia said. "In many instances, stroke isn't fatal, but it leads to years of physical, emotional and mental impairment that could be avoided."

The latest guidelines were produced after researchers conducted extensive reviews on existing guidelines, randomized clinical trials and observational studies.

The findings are published in the journal Stroke.

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