Stroke affects people of all ages and ethnicities. It also affects both men and women. While you can't control some of the primary risk factors for stroke, such as age, ethnicity or family history, many of the major stroke risk factors are under your control.
Here are 5 stroke risk factors you can do something about:
- Blood pressure. High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for stroke, especially if it's untreated. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can more than double your risk of stroke. Get your blood pressure checked regularly at the doctor. Lifestyle changes can help lower blood pressure, like reducing the sodium in your diet, quitting smoking, reducing stress and exercising more. If your blood pressure is still high even after making positive lifestyle changes and your doctor prescribes medicine, take it even if you feel fine.
- Smoking. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke. Not only does it damage blood vessels and clog arteries, but it also raises blood pressure and puts extra strain on the heart. So if you smoke, now is the time to make a plan to stop.
- Cholesterol. Blood cholesterol clogs arteries and can cause stroke. There are usually no symptoms of high cholesterol so get your numbers checked regularly. If your total cholesterol is more than 200, you can take steps to lower it naturally by eating healthier, exercising, quitting smoking, losing weight and reducing stress. Sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough to lower your cholesterol to a healthy level. When that occurs, you may require medication.
- Excess weight. Being overweight is hard on your heart, blood vessels and arteries. Losing just 5-10% of your weight can lower your stroke risk. Help control your weight by eating healthy and exercising. Getting enough sleep and reducing stress can also help you lose or maintain weight.
- Alcohol use. If you drink, do so only in moderation. Some studies show that moderate consumption of alcohol (1 drink a day) can lower your stroke risk. But if you drink more than that, your risk goes up quickly.
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Date Last Reviewed: March 15, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor