What are stroke risk factors? Well, it’s a rather double-sided question. Some risk factors we’re simply born with, and others are directly influenced by our lifestyle choices. Today we’ll take a look at the unchangeable factors that affect our risk of stroke and cover the controllable factors in our next post. Alright, let’s get started.
1. Prior Stroke or TIA
Have you already had a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack)? Stroke survivors are at a much higher risk of stroke than individuals who haven’t had one. And those who’ve experienced a TIA, the ‘warning stroke,’ are 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and gender who hasn’t experienced one. Transient ischemic attacks are to be taken very seriously and treated as a medical emergency.
2. Heart Attack
A heart attack is caused when one of the arteries in your heart becomes blocked. Blocked blood vessels can be lethal, and when an artery in your brain becomes blocked, that’s what causes a stroke. According to this study, your risk of a stroke increases 44-fold for the first month after a heart attack. To taking preventative measures during that month is crucial. Then, your risk remains at 2 to 3-fold for the next 3 years. So making healthy lifestyle changes after experiencing a heart attack can help protect you from experiencing a stroke.
This risk factor is one we’re simply born with. Unfortunately, your risk of stroke might be greater if a parent, grandparent, or sibling has had a stroke. There are also genetic disorders that can increase your risk of stroke, like CADASIL.
CADASIL (Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Sub-cortical Infarcts) is a gene mutation that leads to damaged blood vessel walls to the arteries in the brain, blocking blood flow. If one of your parents has CADASIL, you have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease, so knowing your hereditary risks is important.
As we get older, our risk for medical conditions increases. The statistic is that your risk of stroke doubles for each decade of life past the age of 55. However, while stroke occurs more commonly among the elderly, young people can still have strokes too. In fact, age is one of the most common misconceptions about stroke. So don’t disregard other risks just because you still have your youth, please.
Unfortunately, women have a higher risk of stroke than men. This difference is due to pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and post-menopausal hormone therapy, among other girly things. Since women have more strokes than men each year, it’s important to discuss your specific risks with your doctor.
We know, this list is rather dreary. But knowing your risk factors is an important first step towards stroke prevention. And if you’re a stroke survivor, it’s even more imperative to know and manage your risks.
Part 2: 8 Manageable Stroke Risk Factors