Stroke risks and prevention

A stroke can happen to anyone, at any time and anywhere.

Today stroke is the leading cause of disability worldwide and the second leading cause of death, but almost all strokes could be prevented.
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Stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Without blood, brain cells can be damaged or die.

Up to 90% of strokes could be prevented by addressing a small number of risk factors, including hypertension, diet, smoking and exercise.

worldstrokecampaign.org

90% of strokes are associated with 10 risk factors we can all do something about.

What are stroke risks and prevention

Hypertension or high blood pressure

High blood pressure affects about half of people in the world and often has no noticeable symptoms. Left untreated it damages blood vessels and can lead to a number of serious diseases including stroke. More than half of all strokes are associated with hypertension or high blood pressure. A simple blood pressure check can determine whether you have high blood pressure and a health professional can advise on whether your condition can be managed with lifestyle changes and/or the right medication. 

Exercise

1 million strokes a year are linked to physical inactivity, by getting the recommended amount of exercise each week you will reduce your risk of having a stroke. Just 30 minutes of exercise five times a week can reduce your risk of stroke by 25%.

Diet

Over half of strokes are linked to poor diet but making small dietary changes can make a big difference to reducing your risk.  Making good food choices will help you to maintain a healthy weight, reduce your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol, all of which will help you to prevent stroke.

Weight

Being overweight is one of the top ten risk factors for stroke and is associated with almost 1 in 5 strokes. Being categorised as overweight increases your risk of stroke by 22% and if you are obese that risk increases by 64%. This is because carrying too much weight increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes which all contribute to higher stroke risk. Maintaining a healthy weight will help you reduce your risk of stroke.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF, or AFib)

AF is a condition where the heartbeat is irregular and often very fast. It is very important to know about atrial fibrillation because, left untreated, AF is a major risk factor for stroke. People with AF are five times more likely to have a stroke than the general population. Strokes caused by AF are more likely to be fatal or cause serious disabilities. AF related strokes are, however, highly preventable. 

Smoking

Smoking tobacco increases your risk of having a stroke. Someone who smokes 20 cigarettes a day is six times more likely to have a stroke compared to a non-smoker. If you are a smoker, quitting will reduce your risk of stroke and a range of other diseases. If you live with a non-smoker, quitting will reduce their stroke risk too.

Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol either regularly, or ‘one-off’ overconsumption can increase your risk of stroke, globally excessive alcohol consumption is linked to over 1 million strokes each year. 

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that circulates in your blood. Cholesterol is contained in the food that we eat – mostly saturated fats. Most of the cholesterol in your body is produced in your liver and is carried in your blood by proteins known as lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoprotein – low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density cholesterol (HDL). Stroke is linked to high levels of LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can be managed with lifestyle changes and/or medication. A blood test can tell you what your cholesterol levels are.

Diabetes

1 in 5 people who have a stroke are diabetic and people with diabetes have poorer outcomes from stroke compared with the rest of the population. Stroke and diabetes share many risk factors, most of which can be addressed with lifestyle changes and/or medication. Diabetes is diagnosed by a doctor using a simple blood test. If you have diabetes it is important that you talk to your doctor about your stroke risk and how to manage it. Diabetes can be managed with medication, diet and exercise.

Depression and stress

Around 1 in 6 strokes are linked to mental health. Depression and stress are linked to almost two times greater risk of stroke and TIA (mini-strokes), particularly in adults who are middle-aged and older.

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