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Stroke Prevention

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in America and a leading cause of adult disability. Discover your risk factors for stroke and manage them with the help of UNM Health.

Are You at Risk for a Stroke?

Your genes, health and lifestyle affect your chances of having a stroke. Talk to your primary care provider if you experience two or more of the following risk factors:

  • Man over age 45 or woman over 55
  • Family history of heart attack before age 55 for men or age 65 for women
  • Personal history of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, abnormal heartbeat and/or diabetes
  • African American, Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native heritage
  • Daily tobacco exposure
  • High blood cholesterol (240 mg or higher)
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or higher)
  • Overweight or obese
  • Less than 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week

Lower Your Stroke Risk

Work with your doctor to lower your stroke risk by changing your lifestyle and treating these risk factors:

  • High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. It damages the heart, brain and other organs. Use diet and exercise or blood pressure medications to lower or control it.
  • Cigarette smoking damages the cardiovascular system. Call the QUIT line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free coaching and quit aids.
  • Alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure if you have more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women.
  • Diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels, leading to blood clots, due to the high blood sugar. Get help managing your diabetes through UNM Health's diabetes education program.
  • Obesity puts stress on the body.
  • Little physical activity is considered less than 30 minutes of daily physical activity. An active lifestyle can lead to a healthy life.
  • Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat and can cause blood to pool and clot, causing a stroke. Take blood clot medications to lower your chance of clots, if necessary.
  • Abusing narcotics such as cocaine and methamphetamine increase your heart rate and blood pressure, causing damage to the arteries in the brain and increasing your risk of hemorrhagic stroke. If you need help to quit taking drugs, contact the UNM Behavioral Health Addiction and Substance Abuse Program.
  • Unhealthy diet, including foods high in trans fat and saturated fat, can raise your blood cholesterol levels. Too much salt can increase blood pressure, and a lot of sugar can contribute to being overweight. Manage your cholesterol intake by following the healthy plate [PDF] model for your meals and taking any cholesterol medications prescribed by your doctor.

Take Your Medications

Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat and control some of the conditions that contribute to having a stroke. Follow these medication guidelines:

  • Call your doctor or nurse if you have any medication-related side effects.
  • Keep taking your medications even after you feel better.
  • Use a pill box to help organize your medications.
  • Tell your doctor if you are taking any herbal supplements or over-the-counter medications.
  • Call for medication refills two weeks before you run out.

Contact Us

In order to schedule an appointment with us, please ask your general neurologist or primary care physician for a referral. They can reach us at 505-272-3160.

Stroke Support Group

Connect with other stroke survivors and their families to learn more about stroke, share your experiences and become inspired to move forward.
Where: UNM HospitalFifth Floor [PDF]
Neurology SAC Unit Conference Room
When: First and third Wednesdays, 4-5 p.m.
Contact: Terry Holmes, 505-272-6105

Stroke Medication Information

Learn about how different stroke care medications help and their possible side effects.

Blood Clot Medications

Anticoagulants (Blood Thinners)

These lower the clotting ability of the blood. Possible side effects include:

  • Increased risk of bleeding
  • Easy bruising

Names of medicine include:

  • Warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Heparin (other)
  • Dabigatran (Pradaxa)

Antiplatelet Agents

These help to prevent blood clots and lower the risk for a heart attack or stroke. Possible side effects include:

  • Increased risk of bleeding
  • Easy bruising

Names of medicine include:

  • Aspirin (Bayer, others)
  • Clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • Ticlopidine (Ticlid)
  • Aspirin/ dipyridamole (Aggrenox)

Blood Pressure Medications

Calcium Channel Blockers

These help the heart work better and can help lower blood pressure and pulse. Possible side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Flushing of the face
  • Dizziness
  • Ankle swelling

Names of medicine include:

  • Amplodipine (Norvasc)
  • Diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac)
  • Felodipine (Plendil)

ACE Inhibitors

These widen the blood vessels to increase blood flow. Possible side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Dry cough
  • Decreased taste
  • Metallic taste

Names of medicine include:

  • Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
  • Benazepril (Lotensin)
  • Capotril (Capoten)
  • Enalopril (Vasotec)
  • Fosinopril (Monopril)
  • Quinapril (Accupril)

Angiotensin Receptor Blocker (ARB)

This widens the blood vessels to increase blood flow. Possible side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea

Names of medicine include:

  • Candesartan (Atacand)
  • Irbesartan (Avapro)
  • Losartan (Cazaar)
  • Olmesartan (Benicar)
  • Telmisartan (Micardis)
  • Valsartan (Diovan)

Beta Blockers

These help the heart relax and work better. Possible side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Slow heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Feeling tired

Names of medicine include:

  • Carvedilol (Coreg)
  • Metoprolol (Toprol XL)

Diuretics (water pill)

These help get rid of extra fluid in your lungs, legs and feet. They may also lower your blood pressure. Possible side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps

Names of medicine include:

  • Furosemide (Lasix) -- Needs to be taken in the morning 30 minutes before you eat.
  • Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ)
  • Bumetanide (Bumex)
  • Metolazone (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
  • Spirinolactone (Aldactone)

Cholesterol Medications


Works in the liver to lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol and boost HDL (good) cholesterol. Possible side effects include:

  • Muscle and liver problems are rare but do occur. Your doctor will order regular liver function tests to be safe.

Names of medicine include:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • Lovastatin (Mevacor, Altoprev)
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • Rosuvastatin Calcium (Crestor)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor)


Helps to lower triglycerides and in some cases increase HDL (good cholesterol). Names of medicine include:

  • Gemfibrozil (Lopid)
  • Fenofibrate (Tricor, Triglide)
  • Clofibrate (Atromid-S)


Helps to lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. Possible side effects include:

  • Flushing
  • Itching
  • Upset stomach

Names of medicine include:

  • Niacin (Nicotinic acid) -- Do not take niacin supplement as a substitute for a prescription.

Absorption Inhibitor

Blocks the absorption of cholesterol from the intestine. Names of medicine include:

  • Ezetimibe (Zetia)

Bile-Acid Binding Drugs

Lower the amount of cholesterol left in the bloodstream. Names of medicine include:

  • Cholestyramine (Questran, Prevalite)
  • Colestipol (Colestid)
  • Colesevelam Hcl (WelChol)

Printable Stroke Booklets

Hemorrhagic stroke
English [PDF]
Spanish [PDF]
Vietnamese [PDF]

Ischemic stroke
English [PDF]
Spanish [PDF]
Vietnamese [PDF]

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