Knowing the Stroke Risk Factors
Knowing the risk factors for a stroke are the first steps to preventing a stroke. Some stroke risk factors can be treated and controlled while others can’t be controlled. Making sure you have regular medical checkups and knowing your risk factors are things you can focus on and should.
What risk factors can I change or treat?
- High blood pressure – High blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke, because it is the leading cause of stroke. Knowing your numbers and getting them checked regularly is important. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80. If you have been told that you have high blood pressure, work with your healthcare provider to reduce it.
- Smoking – Smoking can cause damage to blood vessels and this can lead to blockages which then can cause a stroke. Smoking also may reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches your body’s tissues. Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
- Diabetes – Diabetes is a disease in which the blood sugar level is high because the body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use its insulin properly. Diabetics are twice as likely to suffer a stroke compared to non-diabetics. Working with your doctor to manage diabetes is very important to preventing a stroke.
- High Cholesterol – High cholesterol if not managed can increase the risk for blocked arteries. If an artery leading to the brain becomes blocked, a stroke can result.
- Physical inactivity and obesity – Lack of physical inactivity or obesity can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Physical activity can improve your fitness level and health. Talk with your doctor about what types and amounts of activity are safe for you.
- Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) – A transient ischemic attack (TIA) has the same signs and symptoms as a stroke. However, TIA symptoms usually last less than 1–2 hours (although they may last up to 24 hours). Know the warning signs of a TIA and seek emergency medical treatment immediately.
- Artial fibrillation (AFib) or other heart disease – Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common types of arrhythmias, which are irregular heart rhythms. AFib or other heart diseases can cause blood cloths that can lead to a stroke.
- Excessive alcohol intake – Drinking an average of more than one drink per day for women or more than two drinks a day for men can raise blood pressure.
What are the risk factors I can’t control?
- Increasing age – Your risk of stroke increases as you get older. At younger ages, men are more likely than women to have strokes.
- Gender – Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men do. Women who take birth control pills also are at slightly higher risk of stroke.
- Heredity and race – People whose close blood relations have had a stroke have a higher risk of stroke. Strokes occur more often in African American, Alaska Native, and American Indian adults than in white, Hispanic, or Asian American adults.
- Prior stroke – If you’ve had a stroke, you’re at higher risk for another one. Your risk of having a repeat stroke is the highest right after a stroke.
If you believe you or someone you know if having a stroke use the easy acronym F-A-S-T created by the National Stroke Association to identify the signs. The FAST test is an easy way for everyone to remember and recognize the signs of stroke. FAST stands for Face, Arms, Speech and Time to act:
- Face – Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
- Arms – Can they lift both arms?
- Speech – Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
- Time – Is critical. If you notice any of these warning signs, act FAST. Call your local emergency medical services or get to the nearest hospital immediately.
- Think FAST. Act Fast. Stroke is a medical emergency.
Warning signs are clues your body sends that your brain is not receiving enough oxygen. If you observe one or more of these signs of a stroke or “brain attack,” don’t wait, call a doctor or 911 right away!
Peripheral Vascular Associates is proud to serve the San Antonio community and surrounding areas in vascular disease education, prevention, and treatment for over 43 years. Our vascular physicians are experts in stroke prevention in San Antonio. If you would like more information about stroke or carotid artery disease or individual vascular health assessments, please contact us or schedule an appointment at (210) 237-4444.