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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.

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.

THE HEART HEALTH RISK TOOL1

LEARN YOUR RISK OF A HEART ATTACK OR STROKE

Do you know your risk factors?2 Find out and get a personalized heart-healthy action plan to share with your doctor.

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