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Stroke Prevention

Stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the United States, according to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. On average, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds; someone dies of a stroke every four minutes; and 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.

Preventing a Stroke

The best way to prevent stroke is by managing your risk factors. A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease. Some factors we can control, called modifiable. There are other risk factors, called non-modifiable, which you can’t control. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from a stroke is to understand your risk and how to control it.

Modifiable Risk Factors:

  • High Blood Pressure - Controlling high blood pressure through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed. Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be.
  • High Cholesterol – High cholesterol can lead to narrowing of the arteries, stroke, and other problems. Cholesterol can be managed through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed.
  • Diabetes - Diabetes causes sugars to build up in the blood and prevent oxygen and nutrients from getting to the various parts of your body, including your brain. Control diabetes through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed.
  • Abnormal Heart Rhythm (Atrial Fibrillation) - Some types of heart disease can raise your risk for stroke. Having an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) can cause clots to form and travel to the brain. Talk to your doctor about treatment options that are right for you.
  • Tobacco Use - Cigarette smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk for stroke. If you do smoke, quit. Ask your doctor for help quitting.
  • Physical Inactivity - Not getting enough physical activity can lead to other health conditions that can raise the risk for stroke. Exercising at least 30 minutes every day can improve your risk.
  • Obesity - Obesity is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to lower “good” cholesterol levels. Obesity can also lead to high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Unhealthy Diet - Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to stroke and related conditions, such as heart disease. 

Nonmodifiable Risk Factors:

  • Age - The likelihood of having a stroke increases with age. Although stroke is more common among the elderly, a stroke can happen at any age.
  • Race or Ethnicity - Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, and Alaska Natives may be more likely to have a stroke than non-Hispanic whites or Asians. 
  • Sex – Stroke is more common in women than men, and women of all ages are more likely to die from a stroke.
  • Prior Stroke – Someone who has had a stroke previously, is at a higher risk of having another stroke.
  • Family History – If a family member has had a stroke – especially before reaching the age of 65 – you may be at greater risk.

Discuss your individual risk factors and appropriate treatments with your physician.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; American Heart Association

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