Stroke risks can be controlled more easily than one might think. Treating health conditions and managing unhealthy lifestyle risk factors can make a difference.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. High blood pressure causes the heart to pump harder to move blood through the body. This can weaken blood vessels and damage major organs, such as the brain. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to a stroke.
Afib is caused when the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat rapidly and unpredictably, producing an irregular heartbeat. Afib raises stroke risk because it allows blood to pool in the heart. When blood pools, it tends to form clots which can then be carried to the brain, causing a stroke. Long-term untreated Afib can also weaken the heart, leading to heart failure.
Alcohol use has been linked to stroke in many studies. Drinking large amounts of alcohol may increase risk for stroke.
Obesity and excess weight put a strain on the entire circulatory system. Obesity also makes people more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, all of which can increase stroke risk. Adopting healthy eating habits and increasing physical activity can help reduce stroke risk.
In people with diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Without insulin, the body can't process sugar, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. People with diabetes are up to four times more likely to have a stroke than are people who do not have the disease, mainly because many people with diabetes have health problems that are also stroke risk factors.
Atherosclerosis is the progressive buildup of plaque — fatty deposits and other cells — in artery walls. It can clog arteries and block the flow of blood to the brain or other parts of the body, making a person more at risk for a stroke, TIA or other heart disease.
Among other things, smoking damages blood vessel walls, speeds up the clogging of arteries, raises blood pressure and makes the heart work harder. Smoking also doubles the risk of stroke.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood that the human body makes on its own, but it also comes from fat in foods. High levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream can clog arteries and cause a stroke or heart attack.