Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) - Prevention 

Preventing a transient ischaemic attack 

A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) often occurs without warning. Having a TIA may be a sign that another one could follow.

Further TIAs may have more serious effects, or develop into a full, life-threatening stroke.

Whether or not you have previously had a TIA or stroke, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of having either in the future. These are outlined below.

Weight

If you are overweight, your risk of having a TIA or stroke is increased. Being overweight also increases your risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension)heart disease and diabetes.

Losing excess weight will reduce your chances of having a TIA or stroke.

    Exercise

    Regular exercise can lower your blood pressure, which will help prevent many potentially life-threatening conditions, including stroke, heart disease and cancer. It is also an effective way of maintaining a healthy weight, and can help combat stress, anxiety and depression.

    You should aim to do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or brisk walking, every week.

      Healthy eating

      Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help you lose excess weight, and also keep your arteries healthy.

      Make sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) because they are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals.

      Fruit and vegetables also contain substances called anti-oxidants, which reduce the risk of stroke by protecting the walls of your blood vessels from damage.

      Limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than 6g a day (about one full teaspoon). Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which increases your risk of TIA and stroke.

      Do not add salt to your food, and be aware that lots of processed foods include ‘hidden’ salt. Therefore, always check the nutritional information on the label before buying food products. 

      Limiting the amount of saturated fats in your diet will help to keep your cholesterol under control. Foods high in saturated fats include:

      • meat pies
      • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
      • butter
      • ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
      • lard
      • cream
      • hard cheese
      • cakes and biscuits
      • foods containing coconut or palm oil

      If you eat a lot of fatty foods, your arteries are more likely to get clogged with fatty deposits (plaques).

        Alcohol

        Drinking too much alcohol may increase your risk of having a TIA or stroke. Therefore, you should stay within the recommended limits of alcohol which are:

        • 2-3 units a day for women
        • 3-4 units a day for men

        One unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal-strength lager, cider or bitter, a pub measure (25ml) of spirits, or a 50ml pub measure of fortified wine, such as sherry or port.

        If you have had a TIA, you do not need to cut out alcohol altogether. Some studies have suggested drinking a small amount of alcohol (within the recommended daily amount) may actually reduce your risk of having a TIA or stroke. This is because alcohol can thin the blood.

        However, always avoid binge drinking. Drinking too much alcohol is likely to raise your blood pressure. It also increases the risk of a blood vessel bursting and causing bleeding into your brain. This, in turn, will increase your risk of having a TIA or stroke.

        Stop smoking

        Smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke. This is because it narrows your arteries and makes your blood more likely to clot.

        If you stop smoking, you can reduce your risk of having a stroke by up to half. Not smoking will also improve your general health and reduce your risk of developing other serious health conditions, such as lung cancer and heart disease.

        Your GP will be able to provide advice and recommend treatments to help you stop smoking. The NHS Smoking Helpline can also offer advice and encouragement to help you quit smoking. You can call the helpline on 0800 022 4332, or visit the Smokefree website.

        Page last reviewed: 03/10/2012

        Next review due: 03/10/2014

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