Know these leading causes of stroke to inspire stroke prevention.
Although the Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not list the top causes of stroke in order, we describe the 5 main causes of stroke below.
If you have any of these stroke risk factors, now is the time to have a conversation with your doctor.
1. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Hypertension is a leading cause of stroke because of the strain it puts on your arteries.
When you have hypertension, your blood pressure is high, which puts extra strain on your arterial walls.
This high blood pressure increases the risk of rupture; and when an artery in the brain ruptures, it leads to a hemorrhagic stroke.
Hypertension was the leading cause of death in the US in 2014, and it causes 410,000 American deaths annually. (Source: CDC)
2. High Cholesterol
It’s true that high cholesterol can cause a stroke – with some caveats.
High cholesterol promotes plaque buildup in your arteries, narrows the passageway for your blood.
This plaque buildup can eventually cause a blood clot to get lodged and stuck, cutting off the supply of blood.
When the supply of blood in an artery in the brain becomes clogged by a blood clot, it’s called an ischemic stroke:
While high cholesterol does not directly cause stroke, it’s a high contributing factor.
Strangely, high cholesterol can actually reduce the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, according to some studies.
This ambiguity is why talking to your doctor is essential.
Diabetes is a metabolism disorder that prevents you from producing the right amount of insulin, a hormone that allows your body to utilize glucose, its main source of fuel.
As a result, the amount of glucose in the blood stream rises and leads to fatty deposits building up inside your arteries.
This leads to damaged nerves and blood vessels which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Those with diabetes are twice as likely as someone who does not have diabetes to have heart disease or stroke.
So diabetes can be one of the reasons for stroke if you don’t manage it properly.
Proper management of diabetes includes medication, dietary modifications, and exercise.
4. Central Obesity
Obesity-related health conditions include stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes – which are some of the leading causes of preventable death. (Source: CDC)
Obesity involves having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 30, and central obesity means having that excess fat around the waist specifically.
Central obesity increases production of LDL cholesterol, the “bad” type of cholesterol which most contributes to ischemic stroke.
Therefore, losing weight and maintaining a healthy BMI can dramatically reduce your risk of stroke.
Smoking increases blood clot formation, thickens blood, and increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries.
Each of these factors is a stroke risk within itself, so it’s no surprise that smoking doubles your risk of stroke. (Source: Stroke.org PDF)
By quitting smoking, you can help your blood flow freely throughout your body, which is key to preventing stroke and living a healthy life.
And there you have it! The top 5 causes of stroke are hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, central obesity, and smoking.
Luckily, all of these risks are manageable. If you find yourself with a condition on this list, talk to your doctor today.