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Stroke Risk Factors and Prevention

Stroke Risk Factors

There are two types of stroke risk factors: modifiable and nonmodificable.

Modifiable risk factors

Some risk factors can be reduced by changing personal habits or receiving medical treatment. These are called modifiable risk factors.

  • High blood pressure
  • Narrowing of arteries that supply blood to the brain due to atherosclerosis
  • High cholesterol levels, particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Atrial fibrillation, a treatable abnormality of heart rhythm

Nonmodifiable risk factors

 Increased risks based on medical history, age, and race are called nonmodifiable risk factors. 

  • A prior stroke or pre-existing cardiovascular disease other than stroke
  • A prior transient ischemic attack (TIA) — a temporary interrupting of the brain's blood supply, often called a mini-stroke
  • Family members who have had strokes
  • Age 60 or older
  • African-American

Preventing a Stroke

According to the National Stroke Association, up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. Some risk factors are out of your control, such as age and race, but you can reduce your risk by changing personal habits or receiving medical treatment.

The following activities may help prevent a stroke: 

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Increase intake of fruits and vegetables and limit dietary salt and fat.
  • Refrain from smoking.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation (one to two drinks per day).
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Frequently check blood pressure and follow physician recommendations for keeping it in a safe range.
  • Consider taking a low dose of aspirin if your physician determines it is safe.
  • Keep chronic medical conditions, like high cholesterol and diabetes, under control.
  • Seek medical care if you have symptoms of a stroke, even if symptoms stop.

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