Stroke, or “brain attack”, is when an obstruction blocks the flow of blood to the brain. A fatty deposit in the blood vessel starts the obstruction, and blood clots then form at the site. Clots can also form elsewhere in the body and migrate through the system to the brain, causing 87% of strokes. Knowing the risks for stroke can help you prevent the potential disabilities or death from stroke.
- Gender – Women have a higher occurrence of stroke and account for 60% of stroke deaths.
- Family History – If any immediate family member has had a stroke, your risk is 1/3 higher. Ethnicity also plays a role, with African-Americans having twice the risks as Caucasians, dying more often from the strokes as well.
- Smoking – Smoking damages the lining of blood vessels, thickening the arteries, and encouraging the formation of clots. It also raises blood pressure and lowers good HDL cholesterol. Exposure to second-hand smoke increases risk by 30%.
- Heavy Drinking – This increases blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. Heavy drinkers have 34% more risk of stroke than light drinkers, meaning no more than one drink each day. Middle aged heavy drinkers increase their probability for stroke five years sooner than other drinkers.
- Overweight – Having a BMI (determined by weight and height) over 25 increases your risk for stroke by increasing blood pressure and insulin resistance. Losing at least 10 pounds and eating more fruits and vegetables can greatly reduce risk of stroke.
- Lacking Exercise – This goes along with being overweight. If you don’t work out in a normal week, risk of stroke is 20% higher. Be sure to get 30 minutes of exercise five days a week or a total of 150 minutes in any combination.
- High Blood Pressure – This is the single most preventable risk for stroke. Too much pressure can damage the lining of the blood vessels, making artery walls thick and contribute to clots. Weak spots in the vessels can also lead to ruptures and bleeding. Have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. Following a healthy diet with minimal salt intake will bring pressure down as well, while sometimes medication is necessary.
- Quivering Heart – With atrial fibrillation, the top two chambers of the heart quiver rather than contract. This allows blood to pool and clump in the atria, increasing the risk of clots. Blood thinners can reduce these risks. Newer anticoagulants are safer than older drugs regarding bleeding complications.
- Diabetes – High blood sugar damages blood vessels and increases risk of stroke. Diabetics have 1.5 times higher risk of stroke than those without the disease. Eat a healthy diet, staying physically active, and regulating blood sugar will reduce these risks.
- High Cholesterol – The excess fatty buildups form deposits on artery walls called plaque, which narrows blood vessels and create obstructions which can burst and send clots to the brain. Good HDL cholesterol collects bad LDL cholesterol and delivers it to the liver for removal. Get your cholesterol checked every five years. Healthy eating and exercise will bring down levels of cholesterol.
Laliberte, Richard. “Top 10 Signs That You’re Headed for a Stroke.” Stroke Articles. Lifescript, 28 July 2015. Web. 17 Dec 2015.