Stroke Risk Factors

What Are The Risk Factors?

It is important that you address the ones that you can change to decrease your risk for stroke:

High Blood Pressure (hypertension) is the single leading cause of stroke. Hypertension is a chronic disorder, which can often be easily managed with dietary changes and medication. It is not curable and requires a lifetime of management in order to control it. High blood pressure directly damages the blood vessels and overworks the heart, leading to many complications, including stroke. The most important thing you can do is to get your blood pressure checked.

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice. Following a low salt, low fat diet, will help you to manage your blood pressure. Establishing an exercise plan that you are able to complete will also be of benefit. If you have been given a medication to lower your blood pressure it is extremely important that you take the medication as prescribed and do not stop it without checking with your doctor.

Diabetes is a controllable, but not curable disease. Diabetes causes your pancreas to not produce enough insulin or stops your body from using the insulin that it makes. Diabetes can often cause damage to the inside of blood vessels, causing the lining to become rough and irregular. This irregular surface increases the build-up of plaque and platelets, which can block the blood vessels. The better your blood sugar is controlled, the less the risk of a stroke. Therefore, it is very important that you follow your prescribed diet and take the medication as prescribed for you. We can arrange for you to meet with our diabetic educator who will assist you with any questions or concerns that you may have.

Hypercholesterolemia (High Cholesterol)
An elevation of lipids (fats) in your system increases your risk for stroke. Cholesterol, particularly the LDL (bad cholesterol) builds up in the walls of the blood vessels in your brain. When this buildup occurs, the blood flow to that area of the brain is blocked and a stroke may occur. You can manage your cholesterol through diet and medication. Even if you are on medication to reduce your cholesterol, you still need to manage your diet appropriately. We can also refer you to our dietician to assist you in planning your diet.

Have your cholesterol levels checked and know your numbers. It is important to know your total cholesterol level including the HDL and LDL levels. HDL (the good cholesterol) actually helps clean out your vessels. LDL (the bad cholesterol) helps to block the arteries. In addition to discussing the results with you, these test results are also confidentially available to you via our new patient portal.

Smoking can increase your chances of having a stroke. Smoking causes direct damage to the blood vessels and can increase the possibility of blockage occurring in the brain’s blood vessels. Smoking is known as the “triple whammy” threat. It causes the arteries in the brain to constrict, clogs the arteries with plaque, and can cause blood clots. If you need help with quitting, let one of the nurses on your unit or one of the stroke team members know. We can refer you to the JCMC “I Quit Smoking” program or you can call them directly at 1-800-457-6053.

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