12 CLOT-RELATED (ISCHEMIC) STROKE RISK FACTORS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Some things you can control. Some you can’t, but you need to understand both. Your risk of stroke is something to take very seriously, and with the right knowledge, you can get the upper hand.

WHAT CAUSES STROKES:

12 CLOT-RELATED (ISCHEMIC) STROKE RISK FACTORS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Key Takeaways

THE WORST RISK IS NOT KNOWING

When you know the stroke risk factors that apply to you, you have the power to make better choices.



CONTROL THE RISKS YOU CAN, MANAGE THE REST

Truth is, there are risk factors that are out of your control. The good news: you can still manage them..



ASPIRIN MAY HELP REDUCE YOUR RISKS

If you’ve had a clot-related (ischemic) stroke, a doctor-directed aspirin regimen may help reduce your risk of a second.

Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen.

    Your Cholesterol Levels

    If your doctor checks your cholesterol levels, the results will give you four numbers to work with:

    • LDL (low-density-lipoprotein) – the "bad" cholesterol
    • HDL (high-density-lipoprotein) – the "good" cholesterol
    • Triglycerides – the most common type of fat in the body
    • Total cholesterol level – the sum of all your cholesterol numbers

    Depending on your numbers, your doctor may prescribe a statin, which are medications that help lower your cholesterol. Taking your prescription – along with following your doctor’s nutritional advice – are a powerful way to manage this stroke risk factor.

    Lack of Physical Activity

    People who exercise moderately or rigorously regularly reduce their heart disease risk by 30 to 40 percent and their stroke risk by 25 percent. For each hour of regular exercise you get, you gain about two hours of life. Aim for a reachable goal such as 30 minutes of exercise a day. Get help finding a routine you'll stick with.

    Your Blood Pressure

    As blood pressure goes up, your risk of clot-related (ischemic) stroke goes up along with it. High blood pressure is one of those conditions that often has no noticeable symptoms, so it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. If it’s high, talk to your doctor about ways to keep it in a normal, healthy range.

    Your Weight

    Every pound of weight on your body adds miles of blood vessels your heart has to pump blood through. This elevates your blood pressure and raises your risk of clot-related (ischemic) stroke. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to reduce your stroke risk. Just keep your weight in a normal, healthy range. If losing weight is a struggle, talk to your doctor to find a diet and exercise regimen you like enough to stick with for the long haul. Once you reach your goal weight, make it your goal to keep the weight off.

    Your Activity Level

    If you don’t move your body, you won’t burn all the calories you consume, so you gain weight. Inactivity also allows fatty plaque deposits to form in your arteries which raises blood pressure. Check with your doctor to make sure you’re clear to exercise regularly.

    Your Smoking Problem

    Some people call it a smoking habit, and some call it a smoking addiction. Either way, it’s a problem. There’s never been a better time to become an ex-smoker for good.

    Your Diabetes

    For diabetics 65 or older, 16% die of stroke. Diabetes weakens the blood vessels in your brain, so it’s very important to closely monitor your blood sugar levels and eat healthy. By working with your healthcare team, you can manage your diabetes and work to manage any other risks it may cause.

    Your Family History

    If your parents have had strokes, you could have an inherited risk factor. You can also inherit the genetic tendency to have high blood pressure or obesity. Your race could also be a factor; African Americans have more instances of high blood pressure. Likewise, Hispanics are also at greater risk of stroke.

    Know your family history, and share it with your doctor to be on the lookout for warning signs.

    Your Age

    Long life is a gift; however, it also comes with a number of health-related risks, and your chances of having a stroke naturally increase with age. You can manage your risks for developing heart disease by maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. Talk to your healthcare team (your doctors, nurses, etc.) about ways you can fight the aging process.

    Your Gender

    Statistics tell us men are more likely to have strokes, but have a higher survival rate than women. Your doctor is the best source of information to custom tailor a stroke prevention plan for your individual health history, gender, age, and family history.

    Your Previous Stroke

    Once you’ve had your first stroke, your chance of having another are increased – especially within the first three months. However, with proper medical care and healthy lifestyle choices, you can work with your doctors to limit your risks of having a second stroke. If your first stroke was clot-related (ischemic), ask your doctor about whether an aspirin regimen is right for you.

    Your Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs)

    A TIA is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain, and are commonly referred to as “mini-strokes.” They may produce stroke-like symptoms, but generally have no long-term effects. Fortunately, the blockage is temporary, but these are a warning sign that your body may have the blood vessel blockages in place that could cause an actual stroke in the future. If you have had a TIA, work with your doctor to manage the root cause of the problem to head off a stroke later down the road.

    Your Coronary Heart Disease

    If you have coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, or atrial fibrillation (also called AFib, or AF), you're at greater risk for developing blood clots that can lead to a stroke. Your arteries are also part of your cardiovascular system, and artery diseases can lead to arterial damage. The large carotid artery in your neck supplies most of the blood to your brain, so if it becomes blocked by plaque buildup, it can lead to a stroke. But even tiny arteries in your brain can get blocked or burst, so have frequent talks with your heart specialist about how all these risks can be minimized.

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    MANAGING RISK:

    WHY PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS MAY NOT BE ENOUGH

    If you take prescription medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, they may not be enough to protect your heart. Talk to your doctor about whether these medications are enough for you and whether adding an aspirin regimen can help further reduce the risk of another heart attack or clot-related (ischemic) stroke.

    LEARN HOW ASPIRIN COULD HELP

    Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen. 

    STROKE SURVIVORS HAVE A LOT TO LIVE FORWARD TO

    Get inspired by what motivates these stroke survivors.

    middle aged woman with younger woman

    PENNY S.

    “It’s like you’re there, but it’s like you’re in an [out of] body experience.”

    SEE PENNY’S STORY >
    candid photo of an stroke survivor

    ANNA B.

    “I didn’t think I was having a stroke. I knew everyone was acting really urgent. It was scary for me!”

    SEE ANNA’S STORY >
    older man smiling

    TOM K.

    “I had very good handwriting … and now it’s terrible, but that’s a small price to pay in this life and death situation.”

    SEE TOM’S STORY >
    woman smiling

    JOYCE A.

    “I’m celebrating my 52nd birthday in two weeks, and … I’m thankful to be alive.”

    SEE JOYCE’S STORY >
    woman smiling

    TONI G.

    “Education is key for me. I feel so good that I’m able to help people.”

    SEE TONI’S STORY >

    Aspirin regimen products for recurrent heart attack prevention

    Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen.

    This tool is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, medical advice, or medical treatment. Contact your healthcare provider after using the tool to discuss your heart health or if you have any health concerns.

    Estimated risk of a cardiovascular event, specifically, the risk of a heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI) or stroke in the next five years.