Are strokes preventable?

Though there are some risk factors that cannot be modified (higher risk with age, male sex, family history of stroke, and certain ethnic groups such as African American, Hispanic, and Asian heritage); and having a family history of stroke), the good news is that up to 80% of all strokes are preventable. It is important to assess and control these risk factors before they cause problems.

  • High blood pressure: Strokes are 4 to 6 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 6 times more likely to occur in people with heart disease.
  • Being overweight: Excess weight can lead to heart disease and high cholesterol. These things increase your chances of having a stroke.
  • Alcohol use: Heavy drinking increases the risk for stroke.
  • Smoking: Smokers have double the risk for stroke than nonsmokers.
  • Sex: Men are more likely to have strokes than women.
  • Ethnicity: People of African American heritage have an increased rate of stroke.
  • Age: After age 55, there is an increased likelihood of having a stroke.
  • Diabetes: Diabetics are at a higher risk for stroke than non-diabetics.
  • Family history: Those who have a family history of strokes or a prior stroke are at higher risk for having a stroke.

How do you reduce your risk and possibly prevent a stroke?

  • Control your blood pressure
  • Find out if you have heart disease, especially an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation (AF)
  • Do not smoke
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Control your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Limit your alcohol use
  • Control your weight

For patients with risk factors, medications for blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are important prevention measures. A person who has had TIAs or a stroke may be treated with aspirin or other antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs to reduce the risk of another attack.

If a stroke or TIA is thought to be related to a blockage of the carotid artery, a procedure may be needed to address this. In this situation, it is beneficial to be referred to a vascular specialist with expertise in managing carotid artery disease to discuss treatment options. All patients require intensive medical therapy and lifestyle modifications aimed at reducing overall cardiovascular risk. Options for treating the blockage procedurally include surgery (carotid endarterectomy), minimally invasive approaches (carotid artery stenting), and in some situations, hybrid approaches. All of these are good options for managing carotid artery blockages. A vascular specialist can help tailor an individualized treatment plan which is appropriate for your particular clinical situation.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/17/2018.

References

  • Expert knowledge and experience of healthcare providers at Cleveland Clinic
  • National Stroke Association. What is stroke? Accessed 10/18/2018.
  • American Stroke Association. About stroke. Accessed 10/18/2018.
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Stroke Information Page. Accessed 10/18/2018.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About stroke. Accessed 10/18/2018.
  • Stroke. In: Simon RP, Aminoff MJ, Greenberg DA. eds. Clinical Neurology, 10e New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
  • National Institute on Aging. Stroke. Accessed 8/29/2018.

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