80 percent of all strokes are preventable
Prevention starts with managing the risk factors that can lead to stroke such as high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, atrial fibrillation and physical inactivity. More than half of all strokes are caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure, making it the most important risk factor to control.
While you cannot change risk factors such as a family history of stroke, your age or gender or your race, you can take steps to control these risk factors for stroke:
- High blood pressure – risk of stroke begins to increase at blood pressure readings higher than 110/75 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Your doctor will help you decide on a target blood pressure based on your age, whether you have diabetes or other factors.
- High Cholesterol – eating less cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat and trans fats, may reduce the plaques in your arteries. If you cannot control high cholesterol through your diet alone, your doctor may prescribe a statin or another type of cholesterol-lowering medication.
- Cardiovascular disease – this includes heart failure, a heart defect, a heart infection or abnormal heart rhythm.
- Carotid artery disease – the blood vessels in your neck that lead to your brain become clogged.
- Peripheral artery disease – the blood vessels that carry blood in your arms and legs become clogged.
- Diabetes – diabetes increases the severity of atherosclerosis – narrowing of the arteries due to the accumulation of fatty deposits – and the speed with which it develops.
- High levels of homocysteine – elevated levels of this amino acid in your blood can cause your arteries to thicken and scar, making you more susceptible to clots.
- Excess weight – a body mass index of 25 or higher and a waist circumference greater than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men increases risk.
Managing these factors and stopping cigarette smoking, getting enough exercise, eating nutritious foods with less salt and fat, limiting your alcohol intake, not using illicit drugs and discussing the effects of hormone therapy with your doctor if you have other risk factors may all help reduce your risk for stroke.