Risk Factors For Stroke
Certain health and lifestyle issues increase your changes of having a stroke. The leading risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. But there are many other factors that also put you at risk.
Health Risk Factors
- You have high blood pressure
- You are overweight
- You have unhealthy cholesterol levels
- You have fibrillation
- You’ve had a heart attack
- You have narrowed arteries
- You have diabetes
- Arrhythmia or AFIB
Lifestyle Risk Factors
- You rarely exercise
- You often eat salty, fired, or greasy foods.
- You smoke.
- You have more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day.
Age and Family History
- You’re over age 60
- A parent, brother, or sister has had a stroke.
Any of the factors above puts you at increased risk of stroke. But having 3 or more of certain risk factors multiplies your risk. If you have any of these risk factors, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.
Why is High Blood Pressure a problem?
People with high blood pressure may not know or feel it. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked regularly by your doctor or nurse.
Blood pressure measures the force of blood against artery walls. High blood pressure (hypertension) can damage arteries and put you at risk for stroke as much as 4-fold.
High blood pressure promotes plaque formation. Plaque is a waxy material made up of cholesterol and other particles that can build up in artery walls. When there is too much plaque, the arteries can become narrowed and restrict blood flow. Blood pressure can be controlled with exercise, weight loss, dietary changes and medications.
Blood pressure is measured with two numbers. The top number is the pressure when the heart is beating (systolic pressure), and the lower number is the pressure when the heart is resting between beats (diastolic pressure)
A systolic pressure of less than 120 over a diastolic pressure of less than 80 is considered normal for adults. For every 20 mmHG systolic or 10 mmHG diastolic increase in your blood pressure your risk of death from stroke doubles.
Why is High Cholesterol a Problem?
Blood cholesterol is a fatty substance that travels through the bloodstream. When blood cholesterol is high it forms plaque, and the plaque builds up within the walls of arteries which can narrow the opening for blood flow. Over time, this can lead to stroke. Your health care provider can talk to you about how you can get started controlling your cholesterol.
Smoking Quadruples Risk Factor
Smoking is the leading preventable risk factor for strokes. In fact, smokers are four times more likely to have a stroke than non-smokers. Exposure to second-hand smoke may double a non-smoker’s risk.
- Tobacco Increases Chances of Stroke as the nicotine and carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood.
- They also damage blood vessel walls, making clots more likely to form.
- Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk.
- Other factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes.
- Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot.
- Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for young men and women. It produces a greater relative risk in persons under age 50 than in those over 50.
- Women who smoke and use oral contraceptives greatly increase their risk of coronary heart disease and stroke compared with non-smoking women who use oral contraceptives.
- Smoking decreases HDL (good) cholesterol. Cigarette smoking combined with a family history of heart disease also seems to greatly increase the risk.
Remember: The health information contained in this website is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace your discussions with a healthcare professional. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare professional, considering the unique aspects of the patient.
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