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Know Your Risk Factors & Symptoms For Stroke

For women and men, the risk for stroke doubles every 10 years after age 55. Although stroke is more common among the elderly, a lot of people under 65 also have strokes.

Some risk factors are out of your control, but knowing they exist may help motivate you to work harder daily on the ones you can change.

You don’t need to become a super athlete to eat a healthy diet to protect your heart and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Everyone can take steps every day toward a more heart-healthy lifestyle. And the best part is that being more heart-healthy also lowers your risk for other diseases like cancer and diabetes.

What Causes A Stroke?

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked and brain cells begin to die. It is sometimes referred to as a brain attack. Stroke happens to one in five women, compared with one in six men.

Risk Factors You Can Change

  • Physical inactivity and obesity- not getting enough physical activity, being overweight, or both, can greatly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Diabetes- diabetes increases your risk of stroke because it can cause disease of blood vessels in the brain. It’s important to work with your doctor to maintain your diabetes treatment plan.
  • Smoking- tobacco has been proven to damages blood vessels, which can lead to blockages within those blood vessels, leading to a stroke. Avoiding second hand smoke is also essential to preventing stroke.
  • High blood pressure- this is the single most important risk factor for stroke because it’s the number one leading cause of stroke. Know your blood pressure and have it checked at least once every two years. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80. If it’s consistently 140/90 or above, it’s too high. Ask your doctor how you can best manage your blood pressure levels.
  • High cholesterol- increases the risk of blocked arteries. If an artery leading to the brain becomes blocked, a stroke can result.

Risk Factors You Can’t Control

  • Age- your chance of surviving a stroke also goes down as you get older. This is usually because you are more likely to have other health problems when you are older, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. These health conditions make it harder for your body to recover from stroke.
  • Menopause- raises your risk of stroke because your ovaries stop making estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that may help keep blood vessels relaxed and open and help the body maintain a healthy balance of good and bad cholesterol. Without estrogen, cholesterol may start building up on artery walls. This can lead to stroke and other types of heart disease.
  • Family History- Your risk for stroke is higher if one of your parents, especially your mother, had a stroke. If stroke runs in your family, it may be because your family carries genes that raise your risk.
  • Race & ethnicity- African-American women are more likely to have a stroke and fatal outcome than Caucasian women. The reason for this is not totally clear. It is partly because many of the other risk factors for stroke are more common in African-Americans than whites, including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Symptoms of a Stroke           

Stroke symptoms come on suddenly. The most common symptoms are:

  • Numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of the body
  • Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Seek Immediate Help

Because a stroke causes brain damage, it’s extremely important that it’s diagnosed and treated immediately.

If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, call 911 right away. At the hospital doctors and nurses will ask you questions and use imaging tests to figure out what kind of stroke you're having and where it's located. Then, they will give you medicine or do surgery to treat the stroke and help you recover.