Expert Health Articles

Stroke: Know Your Risk

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in men and women and comprises a variety of medical conditions, including stroke, coronary heart disease and peripheral artery disease. Thus, the prevention of cardiovascular disease by risk factor modification is of the utmost importance. Risk factors may be modifiable (changed) or non-modifiable (not changed).

The lifetime risk of stroke in adult males and females is approximately 25%. Recent studies have suggested that up to 90% of strokes may be attributed to modifiable risk factors, which can be substantially reduced by lifestyle changes and the use of appropriate medications. These modifiable risk factors include smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

Other important but non-modifiable risk factors for stroke include age greater than 80 years, ethnicity (African Americans at higher risk than Caucasians), gender with males at greater risk than females; except for ages 35-44 year and greater than 85 years at which females have a similar or higher risk than males, family history of cardiovascular disease and genetics. Some people may have one risk factor, while others have multiple. The risk of stroke is known to be increased in those with two or more risk factors.

Take control of your health and be proactive in modifying your risk of stroke. If you are a current smoker, strive for smoking cessation. There are numerous modalities available to help with this, including behavioral management, nicotine replacement therapy and other pharmacologics. Begin monitoring your blood pressure. Many grocery stores and pharmacies have machines available to measure blood pressure. Next time you are out grabbing groceries or picking up your prescriptions, consider checking. If you are able, keep a blood pressure diary to review your blood pressure trends with your primary care provider at your next office visit. You may also consider asking your primary care provider about cholesterol and blood sugar screening as part of your routine laboratory work. Do your best to work towards weight reduction. Make a goal to participate in physical activity more frequently and routinely, even if it is just a walk around the block. When it comes to diet, try to incorporate more vegetables, fruits and whole grains while limiting salt intake and avoiding any excessive alcohol intake.

While all of these recommendations together may be overwhelming, pick one and make it your priority to address. Once you are feeling comfortable and capable, pick another recommendation to work on, and so forth. With time and with the changes you make, you will begin to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce your risk of stroke.

Taylor Tweed, PA-C
Neurosurgical Associates of Northwest Ohio