Strokes are the number one cause of disability in the United States and the third-leading cause of death. Someone in the US has a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dies from a stroke every four minutes. Strokes cost the United States an estimated $33 billion each year. A recent survey showed that people fear having a stroke more than dying because they may end up with a lifelong disability.
Fortunately, up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Regular exercise and eating a healthy diet go a long way to preventing strokes but there are a lot of other factors that affect the risk of stroke.
Stroke risk factors that can be controlled:
• Weight – Overweight and obese individuals are much more likely to have a stroke.
• Blood Pressure – Maintaining good blood pressure can cut a person’s chance of getting a stroke by fifty percent.
• High Cholesterol – Also called hyperlipidemia, high blood cholesterol is an established risk factor for a stroke.
• Smoking and tobacco use – People who smoke are twice as likely to have a stroke.
• Diabetes that is not well controlled – People who have diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a stroke.
• Excessive alcohol use – Excessive alcohol consumption raises the risk of stroke.
• Atrial fibrillation – This type of irregular heart beat puts people at a higher risk of stroke. However atrial fibrillation can often be controlled with blood thinning medications.
Stroke risk factors that cannot be controlled
• Age – Strokes can happen at any age but the risk increases with age. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55.
• Gender – The risk of stroke is higher for men up until the age of 85. After 85, the risk is higher for women. Despite the higher risk in men, women are at a higher lifetime risk of stroke.
• Family history – Family history of stroke significantly increases the chance for stroke.
• Race – African Americans are nearly twice as likely to have a first stroke and more likely to die from a first stroke compared to whites. The risk for Hispanics is somewhere in between the two.
• Previous strokes – People are more at risk of having another, or recurrent strokes if they have already had a stroke. The National Stroke Association estimates that between 25 and 35 percent of individuals will have a recurrent stroke in their lifetime.
How to lower your risk of a stroke
Making healthy lifestyle changes is the best way to reduce the risk of having a stroke.
• Maintain a healthy weight – A healthy, well-balanced diet goes a long way when it comes to heart disease and stroke prevention. Natural, whole, and unprocessed foods should be the focus of every meal. Be sure to eat the daily recommended 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other high fiber foods. High-cholesterol foods such as cheese, burgers, ice cream and fried foods should all be avoided.
• Staying Active – Exercise is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Exercise not only lowers the risk of stroke, it also lowers the risk of heart attack, diabetes and obesity.
• Not Smoking – Smoking greatly increases the risk of stroke. Quitting smoking offers immediate benefits and after 5 years the risk of stroke is the same as for someone who never smoked at all. For ways to help quit smoking please click here.
• Limiting Alcohol Consumption – Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans the CDC recommends only 1 alcoholic drink per day for women and up to 2 per day for men.
• Keeping blood sugar and cholesterol levels in the normal range – Taking prescribed medications that control blood pressure and cholesterol can keep levels under control and reduce the risk of stroke.
What to do if you are at risk of a stroke
OakBend Medical Center offers the latest technology in screening and stroke prevention as well as care for patients that have experienced both major and minor strokes. To schedule an appointment with a highly-trained stroke specialist please call 281-341-3000 today.
OakBend Medical Center meets the highest standards in care and has been designated as a Primary Stroke Center by the Texas Department of State Health Services. OakBend Medical Center has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines™ Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. For more information on the requirements for this highly acclaimed ranking please click here.