You can make changes to reduce your risk of a stroke
Would you know if you were at risk of stroke? While there is no absolute way to know that you will or will not ever have a stroke in your lifetime, there are signs that you are at high risk of stroke. The good news is that you can do something about every one of these signs so you can significantly lower your stroke risk.
- Your Blood Pressure Is out of Control
If you consistently have high blood pressure or if you are trying to avoid actually finding out what your blood pressure is—that is bad news.
The good news is that high blood pressure can be managed with medication, diet, and lifestyle adjustments such as lowering stress and not smoking. Make sure you see your doctor to find out what your blood pressure is and, under your doctor’s supervision, start making changes.
- Your Blood Sugar Is High—or You Don’t Know What It Is
Erratic blood sugar, chronically elevated blood sugar, or uncontrolled diabetes can damage blood vessels, increasing your risk of stroke. Make sure to see your doctor regularly so that you can get appropriate diabetes screening and proper treatment through diet or medication, as necessary.
- You Smoke
Smoking is a hard habit to break. It is one of the most significant signs that you are at risk of having a stroke. The good news is that, despite the harmful stroke-causing impact of smoking, these effects amazingly reverse over time after you quit smoking.
- You Don’t Get Enough Exercise
Exercise is easy to ignore.
It can seem like a hassle. It can be tough to start exercising if you have aches and pains. But no matter what your health situation is—whether you are healthy or if you have already had a serious stroke—there are safe and easy exercises that can keep you fit while decreasing your stroke risk.
- You Have High Cholesterol
While American Heart Association recommendations for dietary cholesterol have changed in the past few years, you still need to maintain recommended levels.
Optimal levels are considered to be below 150 mg/dL for triglycerides, below 100 mg/dL for LDL, above 50 mg/dl for HDL and below 200 mg/dL for total cholesterol. These recommendations recognize that dietary cholesterol is not the cause of high blood cholesterol, but instead that dietary fat and genetic factors cause high cholesterol. It is a subtle difference that actually means a lot when it comes to diet and whether you need treatment.
- You Drink Too Much Alcohol
While one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men is considered to be acceptable, drinking more can raise your blood pressure and triglycerides. That will contribute to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and increase your risk of stroke.
- You Are Obese
If you are obese, you have an increased chance of other stroke risk factors including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The steps you can take to lose excess weight will reduce your risk, so it is wise to start eating a healthy diet and getting more exercise.
- You Don’t Take Your Medications
Most stroke risk factors can be managed, but that requires regularly taking your medications, refilling prescriptions and getting routine checkups in case any of your doses need to be adjusted.
Take good care of your health. You deserve it, even if it is a bit of a hassle.
- You Don’t Get Medical Attention for Your Heart Disease
If you have shortness of breath when you walk or exert yourself or if you experience chest pain, then you are running a huge risk of a stroke or a heart attack. Don’t delay getting medical attention if you ever experience chest pain.
- You Ignore TIAs
Most people wouldn’t recognize a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Take just a few minutes to familiarize yourself with stroke and TIA symptoms. If you have had any of these signs or symptoms, you need to get medical attention right away, because a TIA is the loudest warning sign that you are at risk of stroke.
A Word From Verywell
These 10 signs that you are at risk of a stroke are serious and should never be taken lightly. Make sure you get the right stroke preventative medical attention for yourself or for someone you care about.
- Risk Factors. National Stroke Association. http://support.stroke.org/acute_site/risk-factors/.
- Stroke Risk. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/risk_factors.htm.
- Who Is at Risk for a Stroke?National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/stroke/atrisk.