Stroke Risk Factors - Take charge of your life
Anyone can suffer a stroke, but various behaviors and medical conditions contribute to the
likelihood of a stroke occurring.
Know the risk factors and take steps to lower your risk:
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can greatly increase a person’s risk of stroke. Behaviors such as smoking, diets high in salt, and excessive alcohol consumption may raise blood pressure.
Atrial fibrillation, a condition causing irregular and often rapid heart rate, may allow clots to form and travel to the brain, causing a stroke.
High cholesterol, a condition which may cause fatty deposits to build up in blood vessel walls. This eventually can reduce blood flow to the brain, resulting in a stroke.
Diabetes increases the risk of having a stroke and can make the outcome of stroke worse.
Heart disease and heart disorders can increase the risk for stroke. Coronary artery disease causes plaque, a fatty substance, to build up and cause blockage in the arteries that bring blood to the heart. Other heart disorders such as valve defects and irregular heartbeats can cause blood clots that can break loose and cause a stroke.
Smoking contributes to stroke risk in multiple ways. Smoking can damage blood vessels, accelerate hardening of the arteries, increase risk of blood clots, raise blood pressure, and reduce the ability for blood to carry oxygen.
Excessive alcohol intake raises blood pressure and can contribute to hardening of the arteries, which are both risk factors for stroke.
Lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain which can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. These conditions can increase the risk for stroke. Lack of exercise also increases risk for diabetes, which further adds to stroke risk.
Family history is a major indicator: genetic factors likely contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease, so a family history of stroke increases your risk. Also, the shared environments and behaviors in some families may contribute to stroke risk.
Age and gender also play a role in risk for stroke. Stroke risk increases with age and men are at greater risk than women.
Race and ethnicity are indicators of stroke risk. Hispanics, African Americans, and American Indians have a greater risk of stroke than Caucasian or Asian people.
The more risk factors a person has, the higher the chance of having a stroke is. Know your risk factors and take steps to lower your risk of stroke.
For more information on risk factors for stroke visit the Stroke Resources page at http://www.ndhealth.gov/heartstroke/?id=76 to view a series of fact sheets on risk factors.