Family history of stroke

Win Toe, MD, is a vascular neurologist specializing in stroke care on staff at Banner Baywood Medical Center. His office can be reached at (480) 543-6880.

Question: My dad suffered from stroke. Does this mean I am at risk when I get older?

Answer: Family history is certainly a significant risk factor for stroke and other related disorders. It is also one of the few risk factors that we are unable to modify. Therefore, anyone with a family history of stroke should be particularly diligent about managing the various health and lifestyle risk factors over which they do have some control.

Generally speaking, men, over the age of 65 with a family history of stroke have an increased risk. Given that we have no control over age, gender or genetics, it is important to focus on the other key risk factors for stroke, which include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes/high blood sugar and atrial fibrillation, a condition characterized by an irregular heartbeat or heart rhythm. Sleep apnea (abnormal pauses and/or low breathing during sleep) and carotid artery disease (plaque buildup on the blood vessels that deliver blood to the brain) also are risk factors for stroke.

Often, simple lifestyle adjustments can help drastically reduce a person’s risk of stroke. Not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, minimizing salt intake, exercising and staying active can go a long way in reducing one’s risk. Adopting these healthy lifestyle behaviors at a young age enables a person to reap even greater stroke prevention rewards.

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