Stroke Risk and Prevention

A stroke is a loss of blood supply to the brain, either through a blocked artery or a broken artery that causes bleeding. Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide

Stroke risk generally increases for older individuals due to weakening of the artery walls, but stroke can affect anyone. A buildup of plaque in the arteries can break lose and cause a blockage, an aneurysm can rupture, or blood clots can occur in other parts of the body and travel to the brain. 

The biggest risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, lipid abnormalities in the blood, and physical inactivity. Individuals with certain diseases, such as obstructive sleep apnea, are also at higher risk of stroke. From a cardiovascular perspective, the two biggest risk factors for stroke are atrial fibrillation and carotid artery disease. 

Lifestyle factors that can help reduce your risk of stroke include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Losing weight
  • Decreasing sodium intake
  • Limiting alcohol use
  • Controlling blood pressure
  • Controlling blood sugar levels

Smoking has a direct effect on the arteries and contributes to build up of cholesterol. Nicotine can make that cholesterol more unstable, which may result in the cholesterol buildup breaking off and becoming a clot.  

Blood pressure control is important in reducing the risk of stroke, as is reducing cholesterol buildup in the arteries through use of statin medications or other treatment. Individuals with atrial fibrillation can reduce their risk of stroke with blood thinners, and those with carotid artery disease may undergo surgery to reduce their stroke risk. 

Physicians at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital can help you understand your stroke risk and discuss options to reduce that risk through lifestyle changes and other treatments. Call the Oklahoma Heart Hospital today for more information.