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Stroke risk factors & 7 things you can do to prevent stroke

  • Category: News, Stroke
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Cecilia Tran

Each year, in May, we recognize National Stroke Month, during this time, many health and heart organizations come together to raise awareness about the causes and effects of stroke. According to the CDC, stroke is a leading cause of death in the US and is a major cause of serious disability for adults. However, it is important to know that stroke is 80% preventable.

Dr. Cecila Tran, Touro’s Family Medicine Physician is here to discuss stroke risks and ways you can reduce some of these risk factors to help prevent a stroke.

Can a stroke happen even if you are a healthy person?

Yes, a stroke can happen to anyone, even people who are relatively young and healthy could potentially have a stroke, but it also depends on your risk factors.

Let's talk about stroke risk factors

Risk factors are traits and lifestyle habits that increase your chance of disease. Being aware of these risk factors and knowing your personal risk is the first step in preventing a stroke.

There are 2 types of risk factors- controllable and uncontrollable.

What are some uncontrollable risk factors?

  • Increased age, the older you are, the greater the risk.
  • Gender, women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men do.
  • Pregnancy, certain forms of birth control, history of preeclampsia or gestational diabetes
  • Heredity and race
  • Prior stroke

While you can’t do much about the risk factors I just mentioned, there are other risk factors that you can control.

What are risk factors I can control, change, or treat?

  • High blood pressure: high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke. High blood pressure adds to your heart’s workload and damages your arteries and organs over time. People with high blood pressure compared to those that have normal blood pressure, are more likely to have a stroke
  • Smoking and vaping: can lead to damage to the blood vessels, causing a stroke.
  • Diabetes: by impacting your body’s ability to make or use insulin correctly, diabetes can cause glucose to build up in your blood. High glucose levels can damage the body’s blood vessels, increasing the chance of stroke.
  • High cholesterol: high cholesterol increases the risk of blocked arteries. If an artery leading to the brain is blocked, it can result in a stroke
  • Physical inactivity: Being inactive, obese, or both can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Certain blood disorders
  • Alcohol intake
  • Illegal drug use

What are some of the things I can do to minimize these risk factors? How can I make for a healthier lifestyle?

  1. Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke
  2. Improve your eating habits- eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and added sugars
  3. Be physically active
  4. Reach and maintain a healthy weight
  5. Monitor your blood pressure- know your blood pressure and have it regularly checked every year. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80
  6. Decrease your stress level
  7. Have regular medical checkups

Talk with your healthcare provider

If you think you may be at risk, discuss this with your healthcare provider. If your risks are controllable, discuss ways you can reduce these risks and how you can incorporate a healthier lifestyle.

Dr. Tran specializes in Family Medicine at Touro. She attended LSU School of Medicine and completed her residency at LSU Health Sciences Center and is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.