Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)Prevention

The best way to help prevent a TIA is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and not smoking or drinking too much alcohol.

The best way to help prevent a TIA is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and not smoking or drinking too much alcohol.

These lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of problems such as atherosclerosis (where arteries become clogged by fatty substances), high blood pressure and high cholesterol level, 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 chance of having a TIA or stroke because it may raise your blood pressure and cholesterol level.

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

Making sure you have a balanced diet is important. Do not 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 a day because too much salt will increase your blood pressure – 6g of salt is about 1 teaspoon.

Find out 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 to lower your cholesterol level and keep your blood pressure in a safe range.

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, plus strength exercises on 2 or more days each week is recommended.

Find out more about 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 support to help you quit smoking. Call 0300 123 1044, or visit NHS Smokefree.

Find out more about stopping smoking.

Cut down on alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and 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, have several drink-free days each week

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

Find out more about managing 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 – it's important to control the condition.

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

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Page last reviewed: 15/08/2019
Next review due: 15/08/2022