Are You at Risk for Stroke? (Infographic)
If you had a chance to avoid the third leading cause of death and the number one cause of disability in the United States besides trauma, you would, right? Stroke affects more than 795,000 Americans each year, but the good news is approximately 80 percent of these cases can be prevented by reducing personal risk. In celebration of National Stroke Awareness Month, take charge of your health by learning your risk, as well as the information necessary to act fast and receive life-saving treatment at the first signs of stroke.
Stroke Risk Factors
There are two categories of stroke risk factors: those you can control and those you cannot. Even if your personal risk for stroke is out of your control, it does not necessarily mean you are destined to develop one. Speak with your doctor about stroke prevention if you identify with any combination of the following risk factors:
Uncontrollable Stroke Risk Factors
- Age – Stoke risk nearly doubles each decade after age 55. However, about 36 percent of all stroke hospitalizations occur in people younger than age 65.
- Family History – Having a first-degree relative or biological grandparent with a stroke history increases stroke risk. Some strokes may be caused by genetic disorders, such as CADASIL.
- Personal History – People who have a personal history of prior stroke, transient ischemic attacks (TIA) or heart attack are far more likely to develop a first-time or reoccurring stroke.
- Race – Because African-Americans have higher risks for high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, they are considered at higher risk for developing stroke than Caucasians.
- Gender – More women develop and die from stroke than men in the United States. Women should discuss stroke risk with doctor if they are pregnant (especially with gestational diabetes) and before taking oral contraceptive and or using post-menopausal therapy.
Controllable Risk Factors
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Recognizing stroke symptoms early saves lives and reduces risk of disability post-stroke. If given care within three hours of first symptoms, an FDA-approved clot-buster medication can be administered to reduce long-term disability for the most common stroke. Stroke symptoms include sudden:
- Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
- Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Vision problems in one or both eyes
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache without known cause
Call 9-1-1 and get emergency medical help immediately if you experience any combination of these symptoms. Be sure to note the time of your first symptom. This information is critical for guiding your health care team’s treatment decisions.
Reduce Your Stroke Risk
While there are some stroke risk factors that are simply out of your control, there are several lifestyle changes you can make in order to reduce your risk of developing stroke. Whether you would like to avoid the potentially life-threatening effects of stroke or are working to prevent a second attack, making the following lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of developing stroke:
- Lower your blood pressure
- Control your blood sugar
- Exercise daily
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit or don't start smoking
- Take medication as directed by a physician
UnityPoint Health – Trinity is dedicated to improving lives through stroke awareness, including focused preventive medicine and leading emergency care. To become more familiar with your personal stroke risk, take our online StrokeAware Risk Assessment, and talk to your physician about improving your lifestyle for a healthier future – stroke free! Don’t have a physician or would like to explore your options? Use our Find a Doctor tool to locate a physician in your area.