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Stroke risk factors

Description

A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain suddenly stops. A stroke is sometimes called a "brain attack or cerebrovascular accident." If blood flow is cut off for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get nutrients and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing lasting damage.

Risk factors are things that increase your chance of getting a disease or condition. This article discusses the risk factors for stroke and things you can do to lessen your risk.

Alternative Names

Preventing stroke; Stroke - prevention; CVA - prevention; TIA - prevention

What is a Risk Factor?

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or health problem. Some risk factors for stroke you cannot change. Some you can. Changing the risk factors that you have control over will help you live a longer, healthier life.

Risk Factors you Cannot Change

You cannot change these stroke risk factors:

Blood clots from the heart may travel to and block the blood vessels in the brain and cause a stroke. This may happen in people with manmade or infected heart valves. It may also happen because of a heart defect you were born with.

A very weak heart and abnormal heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation, can also cause blood clots.

Risk Factors you can Change

Some risk factors for stroke that you can change are:

Birth control pills can raise your risk of blood clots. Clots are more likely in women who also smoke and who are older than 35.

Good nutrition is important to your heart health. It will help control some of your risk factors.

Your doctor may suggest taking aspirin or another blood thinner to help prevent blood clots from forming. DO NOT take aspirin without talking to your doctor first. If you are taking these medicines, take steps to prevent yourself from falling or tripping, which can lead to bleeding.

Follow these guidelines and the advice of your doctor to lower your chances of stroke.

References

Meschia JF, Bushnell C, Boden-Albala B, et al, American Heart Association Stroke Council; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Functional Genomics and Translational Biology; Council on Hypertension. Guidelines for the primary prevention of stroke: a statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2014;45(12):3754-3832. PMID 25355838 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25355838.

Riegel B, Moser DK, Buck HG, et al; American Heart Association Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Council on Peripheral Vascular Disease; and Council on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research. Self-care for the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease and stroke: a scientific statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017;6(9). pii: e006997. PMID: 28860232 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28860232.

Whelton PK, Carey RM, Aronow WS, et al. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high bood pressure in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018;71(19):e127-e248. PMID: 29146535 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29146535.


Review Date: 3/24/2019
Reviewed By: Alireza Minagar, MD, MBA, Professor, Department of Neurology, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.