Know the stroke risk factors you can control – and those you can’t

From your blood pressure and cholesterol level to your family history and current lifestyle, there are plenty of factors that can indicate whether you’re at risk for a stroke.

Factors you can control

Alcohol: Drinking too much can cause other health problems that contribute to stroke risk, such as high blood pressure and obesity. If you do decide to have a drink, limit yourself to one per day. That means no more than 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of table wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib): AFib is a type of irregular heartbeat. If you’ve been diagnosed with AFib, be sure to talk with your doctor about strategies to control it. Uncontrolled AFib increases your risk of stroke by four to five times.

Blood pressure: High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. If your blood pressure is high, it might be related to your family history. The good news is diet, exercise and medication can help you bring your high blood pressure under control.

Cholesterol: Like blood pressure, high cholesterol can be reduced through medication and lifestyle changes.

Diet: Consider adopting a diet low in salt and low in fat, which can lower your risk of stroke.

Exercise: Recent research shows that regular exercise can cut your risk of stroke by more than 25 percent. Try to get 30-60 minutes of exercise each day. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated – add more movement to your daily routine with these easy tips.

Obesity and diabetes: Obesity and diabetes greatly increase your risk for stroke. Lifestyle changes, such as improved diet and increased exercise, can reverse both of these problems.

Smoking: Smoking places you at a significantly higher risk of stroke than non-smokers: If you smoke two packs a day, you are six times more likely to have a stroke than a non-smoker. Ask your doctor for resources to help you quit.

Factors you cannot control

Your age and sex: As you grow older, your risk of stroke and heart disease begins to increase and keeps increasing with age. Overall, more women than men have a stroke, but at younger ages, stroke incidence is actually higher in men than women.

Your family history: Find out if any of your family members have had a stroke in the past. You have a greater risk of stroke if any of your close blood relatives have had a stroke.

Your personal history: If you’ve had a previous transient ischemic attack (TIA), you’re at a higher risk of a future stroke.


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