This year, on World Stroke Day, October 29, the message is clear: Learn to recognize symptoms and take action, learn to recognize the risk factors and take action. According to the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), most of the risks for stroke are also the major risks for coronary heart disease: Unhealthy diets, smoking, and physical inactivity are all unequivocally identified as fuel for a growing epidemic of hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes, all associated with a raised risk of both heart disease and stroke. Atrial fibrillation, the most common disorder of heart rhythm, has also been clearly associated with an increased risk of stroke. Professor Lars Rydén of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and speaking on behalf of the ESC, says: "Stroke is not an inevitable consequence of aging, so by identifying and modifying risk factors there are opportunities to reduce the incidence and mortality rate of this devastating condition. For example, there is much more to be done in lowering blood pressure, particularly in elderly people with high systolic measurements, and in ensuring that those at risk of thromboembolic stroke as a result of atrial fibrillation receive effective prophylactic therapy." According to the World Stroke Organization, stroke now accounts for almost 6 million deaths each year and ranks second only to heart disease as the world’s leading cause of death. If basic preventive measures are not taken, the number of people predicted to die from stroke will rise by another million over the next six years. What can you do? Start moving: Rigorous and regular physical activity reduces the risk of stroke. A study of walking and sports participation in 73,000 Japanese men and women showed that the risk of fatal stroke was reduced by 20 to 29 percent in those active in the highest category. In a study of 47,000 men and women in Finland stroke risk was reduced in those enjoying moderate and high levels of leisure-time physical activity. Next on the list is to stop smoking. Then limit salt. Explains Professor Ian Graham, Chairperson of the Fourth Joint Task Force of the ESC and Other Societies on CVD Prevention in Clinical Practice, "Restriction of salt intake can help to reduce the burden of high blood pressure and consequent stroke." Don’t wait until the 29th to lessen your stroke risk. Start today.