Stroke prevention

A stroke happens when an area of the brain is deprived of its blood supply, usually because of a blockage or burst blood vessel, for long enough to cause vital brain tissue to die.

It is essentially the same as what happens in the arteries leading to the heart when someone has a heart attack, which is why a stroke is now often described as a 'brain attack'.  


Prevention is better than cure and a stroke can be prevented.  Prevention may be either Primary – preventing a stroke from occurring in the first place or Secondary – preventing a further stroke once one has occurred.

Seven steps to help prevent a stroke

1. Measure blood pressure and cholesterol regularly.
2. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity on 5 or more days each week.
3. Stop smoking.
4. Reduce intake of salt, animal fat and sugar.
5. Learn to relax.
6. Limit alcohol intake to, at least, within the daily-recommended limits.
7. Take any medications as prescribed by your GP.

Anyone who is concerned about their risk of stroke should seek advice from their GP

Types of stroke

Strokes are widely classified into two types – Ischaemic or Haemorrhagic.

Ischaemic stroke
This is the most common type of stroke. The artery is blocked by a blood clot, which interrupts the brain's blood supply.

Haemorrhagic stroke
In this type of stroke, a blood vessel in or around the brain ruptures causing bleeding or a haemorrhage. The build up of blood presses on the brain, damaging its delicate tissue. Meanwhile, other brain cells in the area are starved of blood and become damaged.

Symptoms of a stroke

  • Drooping arm, eyelid or dribbling mouth.
  • Sudden slurred speech.
  • Difficulty in finding words or understanding speech.
  • Dizziness, confusion, unsteadiness and/or a severe headache.

Remember FAST

F - Face
A - Arm
S - Speech
T - Time to phone 999

A stroke is a medical emergency.  If you suspect that ether yourself or someone else has had a stroke dial 999 immediately. For more information see the FAST leaflet.

Further information

The Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association aims to improve the quality of life of the people of Northern Ireland by preventing and alleviating chest, heart and stroke illnesses.
Contact: 084 5769 7299.

The Stroke Association funds research into prevention, treatment and better methods of rehabilitation of stroke sufferers and also helps stroke patients and their families.
Contact: 084 5303 3100.

Other useful links
Stroke Services
Northern Trust Rehabilitation and Support Services

Page last updated:08 February 2013