Know Your Risk for Stroke
Risk factors for stroke include those you can change and those you can't. Certain diseases and behaviors can increase your risk, including:
- High blood pressure or cholesterol
- Coronary artery disease or other heart conditions
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Physical inactivity
- Being overweight
- Diet with few fruits and vegetables or too much salt
- Some medications
- Heavy use of alcohol or use of illegal drugs
If you think you're at risk, learn more by signing up for a cardiovascular screening package, which includes a stroke risk assessment. Call 269-WHVC to register.
The CoxHealth Stroke Center offers education and support for patients, families and caregivers.
Being proactive in preventing stroke can be as simple as making a few changes to your lifestyle. Follow these guidelines to reduce your risk for stroke.
Daily exercise is important.
- Check with your doctor about an exercise program.
- Exercise with a partner to help you stick with a program.
- Take care of yourself by taking time each day to exercise.
Control your blood pressure.
- High blood pressure (hypertension) is the greatest risk factor for stroke, contributing to as many as 90 percent of all strokes.
- For an adult, normal blood pressure is less than 140/90. Have your blood pressure checked annually or as recommended by your doctor. If it is elevated, work with your doctor to keep it under control.
- If you are on blood pressure medication, don't stop taking it. Not taking your medication increases your blood pressure and increases your risk for stroke.
- You may be able to lower your blood pressure, and most importantly, lower your risk for stroke by decreasing the salt and fat in your diet.
- Eat a balanced diet by consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and a moderate amount of protein each day.
Find out if you have an irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation (AF).
- People with this heart condition have a significantly higher risk for stroke and should be receiving medical treatment. If you know or suspect that you have AF, contact your doctor.
Ask your doctor if you have circulation problems that might increase your risk for stroke.
- Stroke can be caused by problems with your heart, arteries and veins, or the blood that flows through them. Your doctor can evaluate for problems with circulation that supplies blood to your brain.
- Fatty deposits, caused by atherosclerosis, can block the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your brain. These arteries, located on each side of your neck, are called carotid arteries. Blockage in these arteries can cause stroke. Your doctor can test for this problem.
- If you have blood problems such as sickle cell disease, severe anemia or other diseases, work with your doctor to manage these problems.
- Circulation problems can be treated with medications. If your doctor prescribes medications such as aspirin or blood thinner, take them exactly as prescribed.
Find out if you have high cholesterol.
- Know your cholesterol number.
- If your cholesterol is high, you may be at increased risk for stroke.
- Lowering your cholesterol (if elevated) may reduce your risk for stroke.
- Smoking doubles the risk for stroke.
- If you stop smoking today, your risk for stroke will begin to decrease.
- Within five years, your stroke risk may be the same as that of a non-smoker.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
- It is important to limit your consumption to no more than two drinks a day.
- Heavy drinking has been associated with stroke.