Certain conditions and habits can raise your risk of having a stroke. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to have a stroke. You can treat or control some risk factors, such as high blood pressure and smoking. Other risk factors, such as age and gender, you can’t control, but they are still important to be aware of.
The major risk factors for stroke include:
- High blood pressure - This is the main risk factor for stroke. Blood pressure is considered high if it stays at or above 130/80 mmHg over time.
- Smoking - Damages blood vessels, raises blood pressure and increases the stickiness of the blood making it more likely to clot. Smoking also may reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches your body’s tissues. Exposure to secondhand smoke also can damage the blood vessels.
- Diabetes - Poorly or uncontrolled diabetes causes high levels of glucose in the blood which damage the arteries, making them harder and narrower. Diabetes can also lead to the build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries, increasing the risk of these vessels blocking. If you are diabetic and smoke, it is only a matter of time before you have a heart attack or stroke.
- Heart disease - Coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy and atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots that can lead to a stroke.
- High cholesterol - We all need cholesterol, but when the body has too much, the excess is dumped into the blood stream which can block up the arteries.
- Age and gender - Your risk of stroke increases as you get older. However, stroke is not a disease only affecting older people. Strokes also occur in younger people and the average age for people who have a stroke is 54 years in Qatar. At younger ages, men are more likely than women to have a stroke. Women however, are more likely to die from strokes.
- Personal or family history of having a stroke at a young age - If you’ve had a stroke, you’re at a higher risk of having another one. Your risk of having a repeat stroke is highest right after a stroke.
- Undiagnosed high blood pressure and diabetes or pre diabetes – These are major risk factors. Always take the opportunity to have your blood pressure and glucose levels checked at your health center or one of the many health stands and ask what your ‘numbers’ are for these important health indicators. Be aware of your health.
Other risk factors for stroke, many of which of you can control, include:
- Alcohol and illegal drug use, including cocaine, amphetamines and other drugs
- Lack of physical activity
- Unhealthy diet
- Stress and depression