Approximately every 40 seconds, another stroke occurs in America. That means the chances are pretty good that you or someone you know has been, or will be, affected by the disease. Recognizing the risk factors of stroke is the first step in protecting yourself and those you love.
What is stroke?
Stroke is a disease that involves the arteries and blood vessels which carry blood, nutrients, and oxygen to the brain. A “brain attack” or stroke takes place when one of those arteries or blood vessels is blocked by a mass or blood clot (an ischemic stroke), or when a blood vessel bursts and sudden bleeding around the brain occurs (a hemorrhagic stroke). According to the American Stroke Association, approximately 795,000 Americans suffer from new or recurrent stroke every year. Currently, there are over 4,700,000 stroke survivors in the United States. Stroke is the number one cause for serious, long-term disability in America today. It is also the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Sadly, if the proper prevention and treatment practices had been in place, many of those first time strokes, recurrent strokes, and deaths may have been avoided.
It is important to understand that stroke can affect anyone, despite age or gender. For this reason, it is wise to educate yourself about the risk factors of stroke, and actively work to control existing medical conditions or dangerous behaviors that add to those risks. Many of these risk factors also increase your chances of developing heart disease.
Risk Factors of Stroke That Cannot Be Changed
There are some factors that put you at a greater risk for stroke that you have no control over. This means, if you fall into one or more of these categories, you will need to be even more vigilant in avoiding dangerous behaviors and monitoring any pre-existing health problems.
1. Heredity (Having relatives –parents, siblings, or grandparents–who have a history of stroke increases your risk).
2. Age (The risk of stroke increases with age and is twice as great for people over 55 years old.)
3. Gender (During the younger years, men are at higher risk for stroke. However, as women age, their risks increase. Around 60% of the reported stroke- related deaths were in women.)
4. Race (African-Americans, both men and women, have almost twice the risk of first-time strokes as their counterparts from other races.)
Stroke Risk Factors that Can Be Changed or Controlled:
Other risk factors, such as pre-existing conditions and unhealthy habits, can be changed, or at least treated and monitored.
1. Previous history of heart attack, transient ischemic attacks (TIA or “mini stroke”), or stroke
2. High blood pressure
3. High cholesterol
4. Heart diseases (Almost 75% of stroke victims had some type of cardiovascular disease prior to their stroke, so it is extremely vital to manage any heart related conditions.)
6. Sickle cell anemia
7. Physical inactivity
9. Use of hormone therapy or birth control pills that include estrogen
10. Cigarette smoking
11. Drug and/or alcohol abuse
12. Poor diet
Stroke is an unpredictable health condition that can cause serious and permanent damage. But, recognizing the risk factors of stroke can help you prepare and protect against it. Awareness is the first step to combating stroke.
Stroke: Risk factors by Mayoclinic.com
Understanding Risk by The American Stroke Association
Stroke Risk Factors by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)