Stroke may be a medical event that you envision happening to someone else. However, you could be at higher risk than you think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximately 795,000 individuals living in the U.S. experience a stroke each year. Recognizing your risk factors and taking steps to improve your cardiovascular health through positive wellness habits can help you reduce your likelihood of experiencing stroke.
Question: What are the main risk factors for stroke that people can control?
- Atherosclerosis — High blood pressure, high cholesterol and, in some cases, genetics can lead to plaque buildup in your neck’s carotid arteries and can cause a blockage of blood flow to your brain, resulting in a stroke.
- Diabetes — Unmanaged blood sugar can increase your likelihood of developing stroke.
- Diet — Foods filled with cholesterol, saturated fat, sodium and trans fat can increase blood pressure and cholesterol, raising your risk for stroke.
- Obesity — If you carry excess weight, you are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, three conditions that raise your risk for stroke.
- Smoking — Cardiovascular damage caused by smoking can dramatically increase your risk of stroke, especially if you are also taking birth control pills.
Question: What are risk factors for stroke that cannot be controlled?
- Being 65 or older
- Being female
- Having a family member who has experienced stroke
- Personal history of heart attack, stroke or transient ischemic attacks (TIA)
Question: How can people ensure they are taking care of themselves?
- Walk for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Eat a healthy diet that consists of lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Be sure to get adequate sleep, as less sleep can be associated with strokes and heart disease.
- Reduce stress in whatever way you can (i.e. meditation, more social engagement, etc.).
- Mind-body connection is important – be aware of how you are feeling and when you may need to make a lifestyle change or reduce stress levels.
Q: Should people ask their doctor for specific tests or routine checkups?
Q: What should people do to reduce the risk of having a stroke?
Lifestyle plays a larger role than genetics. Stay active, eat healthy and reduce your stress levels. The top two lifestyle changes to make to help reduce your chance of stroke is to modify blood pressure and stop smoking.
Q: What are some of the causes of stroke among younger individuals?
In young adults, there are two major factors that can increase one’s risk for strokes. The most important thing to avoid is illicit drugs. The second most important thing to avoid is physical trauma, such as car accidents, turning your neck too quickly, sports injuries, and many more.
Talk with your physician about steps you can take to reduce your risk for stroke through healthy lifestyle changes and better management of existing health conditions that increase your risk, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Check out these related stroke articles:
- Different Strokes for Different Folks, But All Are Dangerous
- Act F.A.S.T.: Recognizing Signs of Stroke
- What Every Woman Should Know About Strokes
Updated: The content of this article has been updated as of Friday, May 21, 2020.