How to Lower Your Risk of Stroke
- Strokes are the no. 5 cause of death in the U.S., but the CDC says up to 80 percent of them are preventable.
- For 4 out of 5 stroke victims the stroke itself is the first symptom.
- If you’re proactive about your health, you can significantly lower your risk of having a stroke. A non-invasive carotid artery screening uses ultrasound technology to measure the blockage in the main artery taking blood to the brain.
- Read on to learn more about how to minimize your risk by staying informed about your health and being intentional about your lifestyle choices.
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The CDC reports that every 40 seconds in the US, a person has a stroke1. Every four minutes, a person dies from one. In fact, strokes are the no. 5 cause of death in the U.S. But the CDC also says that up to 80 percent of strokes are actually preventable2. If we are intentional about keeping our bodies healthy, we can significantly lower our risk of having a stroke.
To understand how to prevent a stroke and how these prevention efforts make a difference, we first have to understand what a stroke is.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is a medical emergency in which blood flow to the brain is interrupted, either because of a blockage (an ischemic stroke) or a blood vessel hemorrhage (a hemorrhagic stroke). The most common reason is blockage due to a blood clot. When blood can't reach the brain, it can't bring the crucial oxygen the brain needs to function. When the oxygen is inhibited, the brain cells begin to die in a matter of minutes.
The brain is a complex organ responsible for all your physical, intellectual and emotional functions, so any damage to it can leave lasting effects on your abilities. It's vital to get medical attention as soon as possible when a stroke occurs, even if the blockage passes quickly, which is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). This is commonly referred to as a "mini-stroke," because it has similar signs but is only experienced briefly. A person may feel relatively normal after it passes, but immediate medical attention is still necessary. TIAs can also be indicators that a full-blown stroke is on its way.
What are the risk factors for stroke?
Though anyone can have a stroke, people with certain conditions or chronic illnesses are more at risk, particularly with a cardiovascular issue like carotid artery disease. With carotid artery disease, plaque builds up in the arteries and constricts blood flow. That plaque can then break off and form a clot, blocking blood flow to the brain.
Most strokes (87%) occur due to blood clots3. It's important to know ahead of time if you have a condition like carotid artery disease so you can manage it well and lower your risk of stroke.
Risk factors for stroke include:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease (carotid artery disease, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, etc.)
- Birth control pills (oral contraceptives)
- A history of TIAs
- High cholesterol
- Personal or family history of stroke or cardiovascular disease
You can get a quick, painless screening for stroke and cardiovascular disease risk with Life Line Screening to stay informed about your health. Learn more about our screening package including a Carotid Artery Screening.
How do I lower my risk of having a stroke?
The best way to lower your risk of having a stroke is being proactive about your lifestyle. First, you have to have a clear picture of your current health so you can make informed decisions. In the case of your health, ignorance is not bliss. The earlier you know you have a condition, the sooner you can start taking steps to minimize or manage it.
Talk to your doctor about any risk factors you may already exhibit or are more likely to develop so that you can make a plan to intentionally address those issues. Be sure to get regular physicals so you and your doctor can stay up-to-date on any changes that may occur and adjust your plan accordingly.
Another way to stay informed about your health is to ask your doctor about health screenings that determine your risk for conditions like carotid artery disease. These screenings can illuminate potential issues you didn't know you had, giving you a much stronger understanding of your overall health and what your body needs going forward.
Life Line Screening offers a variety of quick, non-invasive screenings to determine your risk for conditions like cardiovascular disease, liver and kidney disease, diabetes and more.
Once you’re familiar with the status of your overall health, you can come up with a real-life plan for how you’re going to be proactive in preventing emergencies like a stroke. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t happen by accident, so it’s important to come up with tangible ways to incorporate healthier choices into your everyday life.
Your doctor may recommend specific practices to suit your individual needs, but in general, there are several practical yet powerful ways2 you can lower your risk of stroke:
- Be aware of contributing factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar and manage them well (medication may be required)
- Exercise regularly (does not have to be strenuous)
- Avoid foods high in sodium, saturated fats and cholesterol
- Quit smoking
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
A stroke has a few specific symptoms, each with the notable distinction of coming on suddenly. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these, call 9-1-1 immediately:
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Strokes are sudden and life-threatening, so it’s crucial to know the warning signs. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, you can look for three primary issues: drooping face, numbness on one side, and slurred or strange speech.
An easy way to remember what to look for is to think of the acronym "F.A.S.T."4:
F- Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
A- Arm. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S- Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T- Time. If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.
The Bottom Line
Strokes are the no. 5 cause of death in the U.S., but up to 80 percent of them are preventable. If you are intentional about your lifestyle choices and preventative measures like checkups and screenings, you can greatly reduce your risk of having a stroke. Schedule a health screening with Life Line Screening today to get a clear picture of your health so you can make informed decisions going forward.
Our $149 Screening Package will assess your risk for Stroke and Cardiovascular disease.
Screening package includes
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, March 17). Stroke Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm#
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020, January 31). Preventing Stroke: Healthy Living Habits. https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/healthy_living.htm
3American Stroke Association. Types of Stroke and Treatment. https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/types-of-stroke
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020, August 28). Stroke Signs and Symptoms. https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/signs_symptoms.htm