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Stroke Risk Factors

Stroke Risk Factors

Knowing your risk factors can help prevent a stroke:

  • Know your blood pressure. Have it checked at least annually, and if it’s elevated, work with your healthcare professional to keep it under control. High blood pressure, or hypertension, increases stroke risk four to six times.
  • Find out if you have atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat.  If left untreated, Afib can increase stroke risk four to six times.
  • If you smoke, stop. Smoking doubles stroke risk.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Recent studies have suggested that modest alcohol consumption (up to two glasses of wine or the alcohol equivalent) may reduce stroke risk. If you don’t drink, don’t start.
  • Find out if you have high cholesterol. High cholesterol can indirectly increase stroke risk by putting you at greater risk of heart disease. Talk to your doctor if your total cholesterol is higher than 200 mg/dL or if your LDL cholesterol is higher than 100 mg/dL.
  • If you are diabetic, follow your doctor’s recommendations carefully to control your diabetes. People with diabetes have a significantly higher stroke risk. This may be related to circulation problems that diabetes can cause.
  • If you live a sedentary lifestyle, incorporate physical activity that you enjoy into your daily routine.      
  • Enjoy a low-sodium (salt) and low-fat diet. Too much salt may contribute to high blood pressure and make the condition more difficult to control. A diet low in fat will likely include vegetables, lean meats such as chicken and fish, low-fat dairy products and a limited number of eggs.
  • Ask your healthcare professional if you have circulation problems which increase your risk for stroke. If you do, work with your healthcare professional to control this condition.

In some cases, surgery should be considered as an option to prevent stroke. For instance, patients with severe narrowing of the carotid arteries (the two large blood vessels that travel up the neck to the brain) may be at great risk for stroke. Your doctor can offer advice on this and other stroke risk factors.

Print out and complete our risk assessment tool, sponsored by the National Stroke Association, and discuss your findings with your doctor.

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