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Stroke risk factors

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Stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is stopped or reduced to a great extent which further leads to death of brain cells. It can happen to anyone of any age group. There are certain risk factors that contribute to increase in chances of stroke.

There are two types of stroke risk factors viz. controllable and uncontrollable. We shall explain them in the following content.

1.Stroke Risk Factors that can be Controlled

As the name suggests such risks can be controlled either by modifying lifestyle or can be reduced with the help of treatment and medicines. Thus, controllable factors are sub divided as:

a)Lifestyle risk factors

  • High blood pressure – Most common reason behind stroke is high blood pressure. The condition is also known as hypertension, can damage blood vessels
  • High cholesterol- Bad cholesterol or LDL cholesterol deposits inside the arteries are largely responsible to strokes. It can lead to formation of plaque inside arteries
  • Obesity and weight gain- Being overweight and obese can increase blood pressure and increase your cholesterol levels. This makes you prone to heart attack
  • Cigarette smoking and tobacco use- Nicotine deposits can damage the blood vessels, cause blood clotting and cut down oxygen level in blood. Smoking can also increase blood pressure
  • Over consumption of alcohol- Excessive consumption of alcohol is definitely not healthy for your heart. It increases risk of stroke by all means
  • Unhealthy diet- A diet rich in saturated fats, carbohydrates and cholesterol contributes to weight gain and risk of stroke to a considerable extent
  • Lack of exercise- If you are physically inactive, you are at a higher risk of having stroke. Lack of exercises negatively affects blood circulation and body’s metabolism
  • Stress, anxiety, depression- These 3 things are some of the most dangerous culprits that escalates your chances of having sudden stroke

b)Medical risk factors

  • Atrial fibrillation- It characterized by irregular heart beat wherein the left chamber of the heart can have over 400 beats per minute. This puts one highly to the risk of stroke.
  • Diabetes – Doctors say that untreated diabetes makes one vulnerable to vascular diseases. The walls of the arteries harden and endangers one towards having stroke
  • Atherosclerosis- gradual build up of plaque or fatty deposits in the walls of the arteries. This clogs the arteries and blocks blood flow to the brain as well as other parts of the body, thereby increasing risk of stroke
  • Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA)- It’s a mini stroke that lasts for few minutes and then disappears, leaving behind risk of future stroke. TIA is a warning signal.
  • Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD)- some arteries of the body fail to develop normally due to growth of fibrous tissues on their walls. The arteries narrow down, as a result of which blood supply to brain is decreased.
  • Carotid artery disease- fatty deposits form in the carotid arteries – arteries of the neck that supply blood to the brain, thereby blocking blood circulation
  • Peripheral artery disease- blockage in blood supply of peripheral arteries (arteries of arms and legs) can also trigger stroke
  • Sickle cell anaemia- genetic disorder wherein the RBCs become “sickled”. They stick to the walls of blood vessels, thereby blocking blood flow inside the arteries to the brain.

2.Stroke Risk Factors that cannot be Controlled

The following factors are not within the control of a person and they also contribute to having stroke. They include:

  • Age- Stroke can happen at any age. However, the risk doubles after 55 years of age
  • Gender – More women die out of stroke than men
  • Family History- If any member of your family is having history of stroke then you may be vulnerable too
  • Previous history of heart attack, stroke and TIA- If you have had it before, then chances of second attack is quite likely.

Studies say that 80% of strokes can be prevented when one is aware of the risk factors and makes an attempt to control them.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 17, 2015

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