Prevention - Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

The best way to help prevent a TIA is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol.

These lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of problems such as atherosclerosis (where arteries become clogged up by fatty substances), high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, all of which can lead to TIAs.

If you've already had a TIA, making these changes can help reduce your risk of having a full stroke or another TIA in the future.

Diet

An unhealthy diet can increase your chances of having a TIA or stroke because it may raise your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

A low-fat, high-fibre diet is usually recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (5 portions a day) and wholegrains.

Making sure you have a balanced diet is important. Don't eat too much of any single food, particularly processed foods and foods high in salt.

You should limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than 6g (0.2oz) a day because too much salt will increase your blood pressure – 6g of salt is about 1 teaspoonful.

Read more about healthy eating and losing weight.

Exercise

Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.

Regular exercise can also help lower your cholesterol level and keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

For most people, at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week is recommended.

Read more about health and fitness.

Stop smoking

Smoking significantly increases your risk of having a TIA or 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 TIA or stroke.

Not smoking will also improve your general health and reduce your risk of developing other serious conditions, such as lung cancer and heart disease.

The NHS Smoking Helpline can offer advice and encouragement to help you quit smoking. You can call 0300 123 1044, or visit NHS Smokefree.

Read more about stopping smoking.

Cut down on alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain and high blood pressure, and trigger an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), all of which can increase your risk of having a TIA or stroke.

To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:

  • men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
  • spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
  • if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week

Fourteen units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.

Read more about drinking and alcohol.

Managing underlying conditions

If you've been diagnosed with a condition that's known to increase your risk of TIAs and strokes – such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation or diabetes – making sure the condition is well controlled is also important.

These lifestyle changes can help control these conditions to a large degree, but you may also need to take regular medication.

For more information, see:

Page last reviewed: 24/02/2017
Next review due: 24/02/2020