Stroke risk can be controlled easier than one might think. With the help of a doctor, many diseases that increase risk can be treated, while lifestyle risk factors such an unhealthy eating and smoking can be changed.
Treatable Diseases That Increase Stroke Risk:
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke. Blood pressure by definition 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 stroke.
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Atrial Fibrillation (AF)
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is caused when the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat rapidly and unpredictably, producing an irregular heartbeat. AF 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 AF can also weaken the heart, leading to heart failure.
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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.
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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 4 times more likely to have a stroke than someone who does not have the disease, mainly because many people with diabetes have health problems that are also stroke risk factors.
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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.
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Lifestyle Risk Factors That Can Be Changed:
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.
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Alcohol use has been linked to stroke in many studies. For example, drinking large amounts of alcohol may increase risk for stroke.
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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 risk for stroke. Adopting healthy eating habits and increasing physical activity can help reduce stroke risk.
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