Reduce Your Stroke Risk

8 ways to take control of your health

Some stroke risk factors are out of your control, such as family history or genetics. But risk factors related to your lifestyle can be modified.

Joseph F. Sabik III, MD, Chairman of the Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Department in Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold Miller Heart & Vascular Institute, says if you’re taking steps to reduce heart disease, you’re on the road to reducing your risk for stroke, too.

“All the things we talk about to reduce heart disease also reduce stroke,” says Dr. Sabik. “High blood pressure, high cholesterol, triglycerides, exercising – addressing these concerns also lowers the risk for atherosclerosis, which, in turn, lowers the occurrence of bad things that can happen.”

Dr. Sabik says stroke can occur in one of three ways. The most common cause is an embolism or the obstruction of a blood vessel to the brain. Another cause of stroke is thrombosis or a blood clot that forms in an artery or vein. Low blood pressure also is a cause of stroke. The best way to reduce your risk is through preventive care, says Dr. Sabik.

“Do whatever you can to prevent the development of atherosclerosis for both heart disease and stroke. So, if you’re overweight, you need to lose weight. If you’re sedentary, you need to exercise. If you have a strong family history and the genetics are present, you need to do a full-court press to take care of yourself.”

Risk factors for stroke:
  • High blood pressure: Strokes are four to six times more likely to occur in people with high blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol: People with high cholesterol are at double the risk of having a stroke.
  • Heart disease: Strokes are six times more likely to occur in people with heart disease.
  • Being overweight: Excess weight can lead to heart disease and high cholesterol, which, in turn, increase chances of having a stroke.
  • Heavy drinking increases the risk for stroke.
  • Smoking: Smokers have double the risk for stroke as nonsmokers.
  • Men are more likely to have strokes than women.
  • African Americans have a higher rate of stroke than other races.
  • Age: After age 55 there is an increased likelihood of stroke.
  • Diabetics are at higher risk for stroke.
  • A family history of strokes or a prior stroke increases the risk for stroke.
8 ways to reduce your risk of stroke:
  • Control your blood pressure.
  • Find out if you have heart disease, especially an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Find out if you have a diseased carotid artery (arteries that provide blood flow to the head).
  • Lower your cholesterol.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • Control your weight.
  • If you have diabetes, manage the disease.

To make a gift supporting the Sydell and Arnold Miller Heart & Vascular Institute, the Neurological  Institute or any area of Cleveland Clinic, visit our secure giving site or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.

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