Union Hospital Stroke Center, Dover Ohio

Preventing Stroke

There are many steps that can be taken to reduce your risk of stroke. The most common risk factors for stroke are listed below. Some can be changed through lifestyle modification or medical treatment, while some are hereditary. The best thing you can do to improve your odds is review and become familiar with the risk factors and warning signs.

Who is at the greatest risk of stroke?

Some stroke risk factors can be controlled; some cannot. So it's good to ask your family physician how you might minimize your risk. In general, here are some of the factors:

  • Family History — People who have a family history of strokes or have had a prior stroke are at higher risk for having a stroke.
  • High Blood Pressure — Strokes are four to six times more likely to occur in people with high blood pressure.
  • High Cholesterol — People with high cholesterol are at double the risk of having a stroke.
  • Heart Disease — Strokes are six times more likely to occur in people with heart disease.
  • Excess Weight — Being overweight can lead to heart disease and high cholesterol, which, in turn, increases the chance of having a stroke.
  • Alcohol Use — Heavy drinking increases the risk for stroke.
  • Tobacco Use — Smokers have double the risk for stroke as nonsmokers.
  • Gender — Men are more likely to have strokes than women.
  • Race — African Americans have a higher rate of stroke than other races.
  • Age — After 55, there is an increased likelihood of stroke.
  • Chronic Disease — Diabetics are at higher risk for stroke.

How can you reduce your risk of stroke?

Talk about your concerns with your physician, who can address your specific risk factors. In general, here are some things you can do:

  • Control your blood pressure.
  • Find out if you have heart disease, especially an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation (AF).
  • Don't smoke.
  • Find out if you have a diseased carotid artery (arteries that provide blood flow to the head).
  • Lower your cholesterol.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • Control your weight.
  • If you have diabetes, manage the disease.

For patients with risk factors, medications for blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are important preventive measures.

A person who has had transient ischemic attacks (also known as TIAs or ministrokes) or a previous stroke may be treated with aspirin or other antiplatelet or anticoagulant medications to reduce the risk of another attack.

A surgery called carotid endarterectomy is sometimes recommended to reduce the risk of a major stroke. In this procedure, the fatty deposits in the carotid artery that block blood flow to the brain are removed.

Non-surgical options for opening blocked carotid arteries include angioplasty and stenting.

Each year, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke. About 600,000 of these are first attacks, and 185,000 are recurrent attacks.

On average, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.

Stroke is the leading cause of death in the US. Each month, 15 to 20 Tuscarawas County residents have a stroke. Act FAST to get them treatment as quickly as possible.

Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of experiencing first signs of symptoms tend to be healthier three months after a stroke than those whose care is delayed.

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