Reducing Risk of Epilepsy
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: November 2021 | Last updated: February 2022
Some people inherit the type of epilepsy they have. That is not something a person can control. Others suffer brain injuries that lead to epilepsy and seizures. This means not all types of epilepsy are preventable, but some are.
While you may not be able to prevent epilepsy entirely, there are things you can do to reduce the overall risk. Many of these risk-reduction strategies are entirely within your control.
Avoid traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injury is one of the most common reasons why people develop epilepsy. The brain may become injured during:1
- Car accidents
- Falls where you hit your head
- Domestic violence
- Military combat
Accidents and brain injuries cannot always be avoided. But there are many things you can do to make your world safer, such as:1
- Wear a seatbelt
- Install child safety seats properly
- Wear a helmet during sports like biking, horseback riding, wrestling, or boxing
- Wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle
- Fall- and slip-proof your home, especially if you are accident-prone
Anything you can do to reduce your risk of hitting your head or getting a concussion will reduce your risk of epilepsy.
Reduce the risk of stroke to prevent epilepsy
Strokes cause brain injury, which can lead to seizures. To reduce your risk of stroke, it is important to lead a healthy lifestyle and control stroke risk factors such as heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), obesity, and diabetes. Eating a nutrient-rich diet (for example, a Mediterranean diet), maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, stopping smoking, and getting consistent sleep all improve your overall health.1
Some people have seizures triggered by fevers and infections. You can protect yourself and your family from infectious diseases in several ways, including:1,2
- Hand washing
- Sanitizing frequently used household surfaces, such as kitchen and bathroom countertops
- Avoiding sick people
- Getting age-appropriate vaccines
- Taking care to avoid infections when traveling overseas
Take care of yourself during pregnancy
Low-birth-weight babies and those who do not get enough oxygen to the brain during delivery are at higher risk of developing seizures. You can help prevent these conditions by getting regular check-ups while pregnant. Regular check-ups allow your doctor to identify issues that may lead to problems during and after delivery.3
Drink responsibly, avoid illegal drugs
Some studies show that long-term, heavy alcohol use may lead to new cases of epilepsy in some people. The seizures usually happen during alcohol withdrawal rather than the drinking itself. Using certain illegal drugs, such as cocaine, also may trigger seizures in some people.3,4
People who already have epilepsy may or may not be able to drink small quantities of alcohol without triggering seizures.4
A healthy lifestyle and taking basic safety precautions will not eliminate the risk of epilepsy. However, they can make it less likely that you will have seizures due to these causes.