Categories of Stroke Risk Factors
Stroke is more common among older adults, but the fact is that anyone at any age can have a stroke. The chances that you may have a stroke increase if you have certain risk factors. Some of those risk factors, such as your age or family history, cannot be altered or controlled. Other risk factors can be controlled if you take the proper steps.
Risk factors for stroke fall into three categories, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The categories are:
- Family history and other characteristics
Different medical conditions can increase your risk of stroke. These include:
Previous Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
If you have already had a stroke or a TIA, also known as a "mini-stroke," your chances of having another stroke are higher.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for stroke. If you have hypertension, talk with your physician because lowering your blood pressure through medication or lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk for stroke.
The foods you eat can cause your body's cholesterol level to increase. If you take in more cholesterol than you body needs, the extra cholesterol can build up in your arteries, including those in your brain. That can lead to stroke, narrowing of the arteries or other conditions. High cholesterol can often be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes so talk with your doctor.
A number of common heart disorders can increase your risk for stroke.
Diabetes can increase the risk for stroke. Talk with your doctor about ways to manage diabetes and control other risk factors.
Excess body fat can lead to a number of health conditions — such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes — that can, in turn, increase your risk of stroke.
Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle cell disease mainly affects African-American and Hispanic children and causes some red blood cells to form an abnormal sickle shape. Sickle cells can collect in a blood vessel and block the flow of blood to the brain, causing an ischemic stroke.
Lifestyle choices can have an impact on your risk for stroke. Your doctor may recommend that you make changes to your lifestyle to help lower your risk of stroke.
Diets that are high in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol have been linked to stroke.
If you do not get enough physical activity, you may be contributing to other health conditions — such as obesity, hypertension or diabetes — that increase your risk of stroke. Regular exercise can help lower your risk for stroke.
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
If you drink too much alcohol, you can increase your blood pressure levels and your risk for stroke. Women should not have more than one drink per day, and men should limit their drinking to two drinks per day.
Using tobacco can also increase your risk for stroke. Cigarette smoking can damage your heart and blood vessels, nicotine can raise your blood pressure and the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke can reduce the amount of oxygen your blood can carry.
Family History and Other Characteristics
Genetics, ethnicity and family history can increase your risk of stroke. If any of these factors puts you at increased risk for stroke, unhealthy lifestyle choices can make your risk for stroke even higher. While you cannot do anything to change your family history or genetics, you can help reduce your overall risk of stroke by working with your doctor to make lifestyle and behavioral changes.