Your Health | 6 months ago

What's Your Stroke Risk? Learn Must-Know Risk Factors

While you can't prevent all stroke risk factors, there are some factors within your control, such as smoking, poor nutrition and lack of exercise. Get tips on how to control your risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, someone dies of a stroke every 4 minutes. While anyone can have a stroke, your risk increases if certain factors apply to you.

Risk factors fall into two groups – those you can control, and those you can't. The best way to protect yourself is to understand your personal risk and how to best manage it.

“Lifestyle habits are an important factor in determining the risk of stroke," says Rahul Karamchandani, MD, stroke medical director of Carolinas Medical Center and Carolinas HealthCare System’s Neurosciences Institute. “For example, we know that for those who have had a stroke or TIA (warning stroke), the risk of having another event is reduced by 80 percent or more by addressing controllable risk factors. These include seeing your doctor regularly to monitor blood pressure and cholesterol, eating right, being physically active and not smoking.”

Stroke Risk Factors Within Your Control

Smoking: Smoking lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood, making your heart work harder and allowing blood clots to form more easily. It also increases the amount of build-up in the arteries, which may block the flow of blood to your brain.

Obesity: If you’re overweight, you’re putting a strain on your circulatory system. You’re also more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, all of which can increase your risk for stroke.

High Blood Pressure: When your heart has to work hard to pump blood through your body, the added pressure can weaken blood vessels and damage major organs, such as the brain.

High Cholesterol: Cholesterol, or plaque build-up in the arteries, can block normal blood flow to your brain, which can lead to a stroke. Diet, exercise, and in some cases, medications, can be used to reduce cholesterol and the risk of stroke.

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib): AFib is an irregular heartbeat caused when the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat rapidly and unpredictably. AFib raises stroke risk because it allows blood to pool in the heart. In fact, a person with AFib is five times more likely to have a stroke. If you have AFib, ask your doctor about medications and treatments that can be used to reduce the risk of stroke with atrial fibrillation.

Diabetes: If you have diabetes, the chances are higher that you also have high blood pressure or AFib. Managing your diabetes can reduce your risk of stroke.

Stroke Risk Factors Beyond Your Control

• Gender: Women are at higher risk than men

• Age: Being over 55

• Race: Being African American, Hispanic or of Asian/Pacific Island decent

Having a history of stroke in your family or previously having a stroke yourself

Having fibromuscular dysplasia, a medical disorder that causes arteries to develop irregularly

Having patent foramen ovale, a congenital defect resulting in a hole in the heart

If you’re concerned about your risk, make an appointment today to talk with your doctor.

Know the warning signs and symptoms of stroke so you can act fast if you or someone you know might be having a stroke. The first thing you should do is dial 911. The chances of survival are highest when emergency treatment begins right away.

Get the right stroke treatment faster. Learn how the region’s largest and most experienced stroke network can help you.