Who is at Risk for a Stroke?

Who is at Risk for a Stroke?

Your doctor may have mentioned stroke risk before, especially if you have other health conditions. In medical terms, a stroke is a cerebrovascular accident that involves a transient block of perfusion to the brain, resulting in hypoxia (low levels of oxygen) and nutritional deficiency, damaging brain cells. Stroke might also occur because of sudden bleeding in the brain tissue, which eventually results in brain cell damage. This brain damage can be long-lasting, result in long-term disability, and prove fatal in severe cases. 

There are two major types of strokes, classified based on the underlying cause: 

  1. Ischemic Stroke: This type results from a block of blood supply to the brain. These types of strokes are more common.
  2. Hemorrhagic Stroke: This type of stroke occurs due to a sudden bleed inside or outside the brain parenchyma. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common as compared to ischemic strokes.

What do you need to know, and who is at risk?

Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

Time is of the essence when it comes to managing stroke. Recognizing the clinical features of stroke is key to a good prognosis. Some signs and symptoms of a stroke are:

  • Trouble speaking or understanding: One may experience confusion and have a difficult time understanding speech or may have slurred speech.
  • Numbness or loss of sensation in the face, arms, or legs: Sudden loss of sensation in one or both limbs or the face. 
  • Paralysis of some part of the body: Stroke might also present with the loss of function in one limb, both, or the face.
  • Visual impairment: A stroke may present as sudden blurred vision in one or both eyes. 
  • Severe headache: This might be sudden, accompanied by altered levels of consciousness or vomiting.
  • Trouble walking: One might experience loss of coordination and dizziness.

Are You at Risk of Stroke?

A wide variety of factors can increase your risk of having a stroke at some point in your life. Some of these risk factors are modifiable, meaning you can change behavior to reduce the risk, and some are non-modifiable, meaning there is nothing to be done to decrease the risk.

Non-Modifiable risk factors:

  • Age: Older age is associated with an increased risk of stroke. The risk essentially doubles after each decade after the age of 55.
  • Race: African Americans are at double the risk of developing a stroke.
  • Gender: The risk is relatively higher in females in young age groups, but the dynamic shifts towards males in older ages, making it more common in men in old age groups.
  • History of the previous stroke. 
  • Genetics: A strong family history increases the risk of stroke.

Modifiable risk factors:

  • Smoking.
  • Use of oral contraceptives: Using hormonal oral contraceptives increases the likelihood of stroke in females.
  • Hyperlipidemia: High cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of stroke.
  • Alcohol abuse: Excessive use of alcohol significantly affects the stroke risk score.
  • Obesity or inactivity: Exercise helps reduce the chances of stroke.

Certain medical conditions come with an increased risk of stroke; these include:

  • Hypertension: It is a significant risk factor for lacunar stroke. Persistently raised blood pressure beyond 140/90 is associated with an increased risk of stroke.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes increases the risk of developing a stroke.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Atrial fibrillation: Heart diseases such as atrial fibrillation (arrhythmia) increase the likelihood of stroke.

If you are concerned about your risk, speak with your physician. They will talk about how to tackle some of the modifiable factors to reduce your risk.

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