Who Is At Risk For Stroke?

There are two types of risk factors associated with stroke and heart disease.  Some can be controlled and some cannot.  Understanding both can help reduce the damaging effects of stroke.

Factors You Can't Control

Increasing Age

Stroke can happen to people of all ages, including children. But the older you are, the greater your risk of stroke. Sex (gender) - The latest data show that, overall, the incidence and prevalence of stroke are about equal for men and women. However, at all ages, more women than men die of stroke.

Heredity (family history) and Race

Your stroke risk is greater if you have a parent, grandparent, sister or brother who has had a stroke. African Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians. In part this is due to increased incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Mexican Americans are also at increased risk.

Prior Stroke or Heart Attack

Someone who has had a stroke, has a higher risk of having another one. If you've had a heart attack, your risk of stroke also increases.

Factors You Can Control

Learn more about your risk factors and have regular check-ups. Reduce the risk factors you can control. You may need to:

  • Seek early recognition and treatment of sleep apnea (sleep apnea is a condition where a person repeatedly stops breathing while sleeping)
  • Cut the amount and kinds of fat and cholesterol in your diet.
  • Stop smoking and avoid other people's tobacco smoke.
  • Control high blood pressure.
  • Be more physically active. For example, use stairs instead of elevators!
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Take medicine if your doctor prescribes it. 

Take action in your community and workplace

  • Ask for healthier food choices in grocery stores, restaurants and your company's vending machines or cafeteria.
  • Insist on a non-smoking section in restaurants and other public places.
  • Request that your workplace be smoke-free.
  • Start a fitness walking club or exercise class.
  • Learn to relax and find healthful ways to deal with situations you find stressful.
  • Unhealthy responses to stress may lead to other risk behaviors like smoking and overeating.

Get your friends and family to join you in a healthy way of life:

  • Make changes slowly in your family's diet and exercise habits.
  • Share heart-healthy cooking tips and recipes with friends.
  • Suggest that your church, synagogue or community group hold a blood pressure or cholesterol screening.
  • Find a partner to exercise with you three or four times a week.
  • Turn off the TV and do something active as a family.
  • Help friends and family who want to quit smoking.

© 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.

© 2014 Genesis Health System - All rights reserved.

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