What risk factors for stroke can I change or treat?

The first step in preventing a stroke is to know your risk factors. Most risk factors can be changed or treated. Talk to your healthcare provider to develop an individualized plan that minimizes your specific risk factors, such as lowering blood pressure or controlling diabetes.

Risk factors you can control:
  • High Blood Pressure -- This is the number one cause of stroke. Know your blood pressure and have it checked regularly. If it is consistently 140/90 or above, it is high. Talk to your doctor about how to lower and control it. Your options may include dietary changes, increased physical activity, or medications. Controlling your sodium (salt) intake may lower your blood pressure.
  • Smoking -- Smoking is bad for your health because it damages blood vessels. Talk to your doctor about help to quit smoking.
  • Diabetes -- Having diabetes increases your risk of stroke because it can cause disease of blood vessels in the brain. Work with your doctor to manage your diabetes. 
  • Carotid or Other Artery Disease -- The carotid arteries in your neck supply most of the blood to your brain. A buildup of fatty plaque inside the artery wall increases the chance of a blood clot forming and blocking the artery. Severe narrowing may need to be treated surgically.
  • TIA -- Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are “mini-strokes” that produce stroke-like symptoms that go away within 24 hours. Recognizing and treating the cause of TIAs can reduce the risk of a major stroke.
  • Atrial Fibrillation or Other Heart Disease -- In atrial fibrillation, the heart’s upper chambers quiver. These weak, ineffective contractions may allow blood to pool and clot. If a clot breaks off and lodges in an artery providing blood to the brain, it can cause a stroke.
  • High Blood Cholesterol -- Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. High cholesterol increases the risk of clogged arteries. If an artery leading to the brain becomes blocked, a stroke can occur.
  • Physical Inactivity and Obesity -- Being inactive, overweight, or both can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
  • Excessive Alcohol Intake -- Drinking an average of more than one drink per day for women or more than two drinks a day for men can increase your risk of stroke.
  • Illegal Drug Use -- Intravenous drug use has been linked to stroke. Cocaine, regardless of how it is used, increases your risk of stroke.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.