Why is it important to know my risk for stroke?
Knowing your risk is the key to prevention. By having regular medical checkups, you can learn about your risk factors. Some risk factors you can change or treat, and others you can’t. By knowing your risk, you can focus on the factors you can change and lower your risk of stroke.
What risk factors can I change or treat?
- High blood pressure. This is the single most important risk factor for stroke. Know your blood pressure and have it checked at least once every two years. If it’s 140/90 or above, it’s high. Talk to your doctor about how to control it.
- Tobacco use. Don’t smoke cigarettes or use other forms of tobacco.
- Diabetes mellitus. While diabetes is treatable, having it increases your risk of stroke. Work with your doctor to manage diabetes and reduce other risk factors.
- Carotid or other artery disease. The carotid arteries in your neck supply blood to your brain. A carotid artery damaged by a fatty buildup of plaque inside the artery wall may become blocked by a blood clot, causing a stroke.
- TIAs. Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are “mini strokes” that produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting effects. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce the risk of a major stroke. Know the warning signs of a TIA and seek emergency medical treatment immediately.
- Atrial fibrillation or other heart disease. In atrial fibrillation the heart’s upper chambers quiver rather than beating effectively. This causes the blood to pool and clot, increasing the risk of stroke. People with other types of heart disease have a higher risk of stroke, too.
- Certain blood disorders. A high red blood cell count makes clots more likely, raising the risk of stroke. Sickle cell anemia increases stroke risk because the “sickled” cells stick to blood vessel walls and may block arteries.
- High blood cholesterol. High blood cholesterol increases the risk of clogged arteries. If an artery leading to the brain becomes blocked, a stroke results.
- Physical inactivity and obesity. Being inactive, obese or both can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Excessive alcohol intake. Drinking an average of more than one drink per day for women or more than two drinks a day for men raises blood pressure. Binge drinking can lead to stroke.
- Illegal drug use. Intravenous drug abuse carries a high risk of stroke. Cocaine use also has been linked to stroke.
What are the risk factors I can't control?
- Increasing age. Stroke affects people of all ages. But the older you are, the greater your stroke risk.
- Gender. In most age groups, more men than women have stroke, but more women die from stroke.
- Heredity and race. People whose close blood relations have had a stroke have a higher risk of stroke themselves. African Americans have a higher risk of death and disability from stroke than whites, because they have high blood pressure more often. Hispanic Americans are also at higher risk of stroke.
- Prior stroke. Someone who has had a stroke is at higher risk of having another one.
What are the warning signs of stroke?
- Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headaches with no known cause
Learn to recognize a stroke, because time lost is brain lost.
Today there are treatments that can reduce the risk of damage from the most common type of stroke, but only if you get help quickly - within 3 hours of your first symptoms.
Call 9-1-1 immediately if you experience these warning signs!
Content courtesy of: American Heart Association