What can be changed?

  • High blood pressure.  High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for stroke. It produces direct injury to blood vessels and increases the chance for stroke. High blood pressure that continues over a period of years also damages the heart. Blood pressure can often be controlled by maintaining a low-fat, low-salt diet and by maintaining proper weight. Exercising regularly, and drinking alcohol only in moderation, if at all, will help.  Medications to control blood pressure are available, and may be prescribed by your physician. If blood pressure is controlled, the risk of stroke is significantly reduced.
  • Cigarette smoking. People exposed to tobacco smoke—their own or someone else’s—develop atherosclerosis more frequently and more severely than people not exposed to it.  Smoking also raises blood pressure and makes the heart work harder.  Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke will help to decrease the risk for stroke.
  • TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attacks) People who have had a TIA are at an increased risk for having a stroke. Recognizing and treating TIAs can decrease your chance of having a stroke. TIAs should never be ignored—seek medical attention immediately.
  • Cartoid or other artery diseases
  • Heart disease. People with heart problems have a much greater risk for stroke than people with normal hearts. Some people who have had a stroke have a heart condition called atrial fibrillation. In this disease, the upper chambers of the heart do not beat normally. They are said to beat irregularly.  This may lead to the formation of blood clots in the heart. If a clot is pumped out of the heart, it may block the blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke. Atrial fibrillation and other heart diseases may be managed with help from your physician. Reducing the risk of heart disease will reduce the risk for stroke.
  • Alcohol.  It has been noted that heavy alcohol consumption appears to be strongly associated with stroke. More than two alcoholic beverages per day may raise blood pressure levels, and high blood pressure is a strong risk factor for stroke. It is recommended that alcohol intake be limited to no more than one glass of wine or the alcohol equivalent per day.
  • Blood cholesterol and Lipids.  Elevated blood cholesterol and lipids (fats) increase the risk of heart disease.  This is because it contributes to the development of atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.”
  • Obesity.  Obese people are more likely to develop high blood pressure or diabetes, and to develop heart disease.  All of these will increase the risk for stroke. Losing excess weight and maintaining a low-fat diet will decrease the risk for stroke.
  • Physical inactivity. Regular exercise helps to fight heart disease and other conditions related to stroke, such as high blood pressure, obesity and elevated blood lipid levels.  Staying active will help to prevent stroke. Check with your physician before starting a new exercise program.
  • High Red Blood Cell Count.  Increased red blood cells in the body will thicken the blood. This increases the risk for clots to form. A high red blood cell count may be detected on a routine physical exam by doing a complete blood count. It is treatable by removing blood or by giving medications such as “blood thinners.”
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