IN the case of stroke, some people are fortunate in that they can recover completely, but in general, over two-thirds of stroke survivors are left with some type of disability.
Hence, it’s important that you keep in mind your risk factors in order for you to minimise your risks.
Risk factors you can control
High blood pressure – High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. Hence, it is important that you know your bp numbers, and keep them under control.
Smoking – Studies have shown that cigarette smoking is a risk factor for stroke.
Diabetes – Diabetes (both types 1 and 2) greatly increases stroke risk. And unfortunately, many diabetics also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight, which increases their risk even more. Control your diabetes.
Diet – Diets high in saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels. Those high in sodium (salt) can increase blood pressure. Too many calories increase obesity risk. All these increases the risk of stroke.
Conversely, a diet that is high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains may reduce the risk of stroke. Learn to eat better.
Physical inactivity – This increases a host of risk factors, including stroke, heart disease, overweight, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. Just get moving.
The World Health Organization as well as the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity.
Obesity – Again, this is a risk factor for many problems, including stroke.
You don’t have to lose a whole lot. Start with as little as 5% of your body weight, which can make a difference. Take small steps first, and make it a lifetime habit.
High blood cholesterol – This is another risk factor for stroke. Too much cholesterol clogs up blood vessels, including ones that supply the brain.
Carotid artery disease – The carotid arteries are located on the neck, and these supply blood to the brain. A carotid artery narrowed by fatty deposits may become blocked by a blood clot, and this may lead to a stroke.
Atrial fibrillation – This is a heart rhythm disorder.
AF can increase the risk of stroke by as much as five times.
This is because the irregular heart rhythm predisposes to clot formation, and the clot can travel to the brain and lead to a stroke. Get treatment if you have AF to lower your stroke risk.
Other heart disease – Other heart problems like heart valve disease and some types of congenital heart defects can also raise the risk of stroke.
Risk factors you can’t control
Age – Unfortunately, the older you are, the higher the risk for stroke. According to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, the likelihood of having a stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after age 55.
Family history – If your parent, grandparent or sibling has had a stroke, you may be at greater risk.
Prior stroke – Someone who has had a stroke, TIA or heart attack is likelier to suffer another stroke.