Managing the Risk Factors for Stroke

Stroke risk factors vary between those that are manageable and those that are hereditary or not within your control. While that can feel scary, there are a lot of risk factors that are within your control and they are important to manage. Not only because it will reduce your likelihood to having a stroke, but it will also help you feel better overall.

In the United States, nearly 800,000 strokes occur each year and is the fifth leading cause of death overall and the fourth leading cause among women. Strokes can also cause long-term disability or brain damage. Although through stroke prevention measures like controlling risk factors, many believe that strokes can be preventable.

The risk factors that are beyond your control are:

Age – The likelihood of having a stroke does increase with age for both men and women.

Family History – If one of your parents, grandparents or siblings have had a stroke, your chances of having a stroke increase.

Race – Because of the propensity of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, African Americans tend to be at higher risk of stroke – although those health factors can be managed.

Gender – Women tend to have more strokes than men. Because women live longer than men, they also have strokes later in life. The factors that contribute to higher risk are pregnancy, history of preeclampsia/eclampsia or gestational diabetes, oral contraceptive use (especially when combined with smoking) and post-menopausal hormone therapy.

Prior Stroke, TIA, or Heart Attack – TIAs are smaller, temporary blockages in the brain that can produce milder forms of stroke-like symptoms but may not leave lasting damage. Your risk increases substantially if you have had a prior stroke, TIA, or heart attack. But preventing the first occurrence is key. About three-fourths of strokes are first-time strokes.

The risk factors that you can manage and improve:

High-blood pressure – There are many things that contribute to high blood pressure including drinking alcohol, caffeine, certain medications, sodium and much more. Reducing use of some of the items can help improve your blood pressure. You should also discuss a plan with your doctor.

Smoking – Smoking damages the cardiovascular system by blocking arteries and blood flow through the body. Quitting smoking will vastly improve your health overall and decrease the changes of stroke.

Diabetes – Most people who have diabetes also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight—increasing their risk even more. Learn how to manage your diabetes.

Diet – Foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can create many health issues. Changing your eating habits can significantly reduce your risk of stroke.

Physical Inactivity – Exercise is great for your overall health and wellbeing. It also helps with circulation and energy levels. If you are not already exercising, you can start slowly by adding a walk to your daily routine.

Obesity – Eating healthy and regular exercise can help bring weight down. Obesity is linked to many health factors including cardiovascular health.

High Blood Cholesterol – High amounts of cholesterol in the blood can build up and cause clots. Most cholesterol comes from the food we eat so eating healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins will help.

There are many ways to control your risk factors for a stroke. Some of the manageable ones can also help with the risk factors beyond your control. If you or your loved one is struggling to manage some of the changes needed, a help of a HomeWell caregiver may be the right answer. Our caregivers can help with grocery shopping, meal preparation, encouragement of light exercise and communication with health care providers.

Contact your nearest HomeWell location for more information on how a HomeWell can provide support and offer peace of mind.