Stroke Causes and Risk Factors
There are several factors that can cause stroke. The most common type of stroke, called ischemic stroke, is caused by a blood clot blocks the blood flow to the brain. While the other type, called hemorrhagic stroke, is caused by a rupture of a blood vessel in the brain.
Stroke can affect people of all age, races and gender. However, the possibility of having a stroke increase if a person has certain risk factors for stroke.
The good news is up to 80 percent of strokes risk factors can be prevented or controlled, and the best way to prevent yourself and loved ones from a stroke is to understand the risk factors and better manage them.
Risk Factors for Stroke
There are 2 types of risk factors for stroke: Controlled and Uncontrolled.
Controlled Risk Factors:
- High blood pressure
High blood pressure is one of the major risk factor for both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. Risk of stroke increased from 4-6 times when people have high blood pressure. By controlling your blood pressure levels, you can greatly reduce your risk of stroke.
In recent years, research has shown smoking to be an important risk factor for stroke. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system in many ways. The use of oral contraceptives in combination with smoking greatly increases the risk of stroke.
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause high blood pressure. Drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day increases the risk of stroke by 50 percent.
Certain drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin, have been associated with increased risk of stroke.
- High Cholesterol
People with high cholesterol levels have an increased risk of stroke. Also, it appears that low HDL (good) cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke in men, but more data are needed to verify its effect on women.
- Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes is an independent risk factor for stroke. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and overweight. These increases their risk even more.
Diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol can increase blood cholesterol levels. A diet high in sodium (salt) can contribute to increased blood pressure. And high-calorie foods can contribute to obesity. All of these increase the risk of stroke.
Being obese or overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. All increase the risk of stroke.
Uncontrolled Risk Factors:
The chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55. While stroke is common among the elderly, but younger people may also have a stroke.
- Family History
You have a higher risk of stroke if your family member (parent, grandparent, brother or sister) have had a stroke.
Stroke is more likely in men than in women. However, more than half of total stroke deaths occur in women. The use of birth control pills and pregnancy raises the risk of stroke for women.
African Americans have double risk of stroke compared to Caucasians. Hispanic and Asian/ Pacific Islanders also have a higher risk than Caucasians.
- Previous stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
The risk of stroke increases if a person has previously suffered a stroke. Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) are “warning strokes” that produce similar symptoms of stroke but no lasting damage. TIA are a strong predictor of stroke. A person who had a TIA is almost 10 times more likely to suffer a stroke than a person who had not. Recognizing and preventing TIA can reduce the risk of stroke.